While Vietnam has made great strides towards poverty reduction, population growth and development in the mountainous North have had negative effects on the land and forests in the region.

Smallholder acacia plantation plots are contributing to reverse this development. This area is also home to over 20 ethnic minority groups, which still live below the poverty line and face land degradation and low and unstable income.

In Vietnam, about 40% of the land area is covered by forests, which are classified into three categories: “Special use forest”, “Protection forest” and “Production forest”.

Each forest type has a different purpose and ownership. Production forests consist of natural forest and plantations and represents 50% of Vietnam’s forests. Most Vietnam’s forests are publicly owned (68%), whereas 25% are privately owned 7% has “other” ownership. 

Smallholders with muscle

Smallholder households with a plot size of 1–5 ha manage close to half of Vietnam’s acacia plantations (about half a million ha of forest plantations).

DFE has been working to organize these smallholders in order to improve their income generation and technical management of their acacia plots.

This has led to the establishment of farmer groups and farm forestry cooperatives that provide a link to the local market as well as access to necessary high-quality production inputs and dialogue with forest authorities, for the local tree growers.

Timber production and certification

DFE works on models to motivate the farmers to extend the rotation period from 5-6 years to up to 10 years so that the logs can be sold to sawmills for furniture making. Sawlogs give a higher price then the woodchips that can be produced from a tree that is cut after just five years. DFE is also exploring the potential of forest certification.

The national target is to have 30% of all production forest certified as sustainably managed, equivalent to more than 3.2 mio. ha. However, only as little as 227,383 ha have been certificated until now. Wood and wood products represent the sixth biggest export item of Vietnam and now capture 6% of the global market share.

Several smaller and larger furniture companies (e.g. Scancom) have factories in Vietnam, however, most of Vietnam’s certified wood is imported. By producing certified timber themselves, Vietnam smallholders can increase their income while also focusing on environmentally friendly production