Some results and experiences
Although analyses are still ongoing, a varied
range of results is already available from the different surveys, including databases,
reports, a model, and 'lessons learned' in general.
The people of Khe Tran village (21 households) became more
intensive farmers since a settlement program was initiated by the Vietnamese
government in 1993. They used to do shifting cultivation on the upper part of
the present village location, but agricultural practices have changed a lot
while developing intensive agriculture (rice field, pepper gardens, etc), rubber
and Acacia plantation and cattle husbandry. They follow the government’s rules
and bans on protected forests and land management, often to the detriment of
their traditional rules.
During community meetings it became obvious that
people follow the official land use categories. These concepts seem to have been
socialized when the government started a resettlement program for upland
farmers. We combined these categories with terms that relate to parts of the
landscape (river, forest bare hill, etc.) as the base of land types for our
Meetings between villagers and MLA team resulted
in mainly three types of forest being recognized. These were: big tree forest,
small tree forest and planted forest (several Acacia species, but mainly Acacia
mangium and Hevea brasiliensis (rubber).
The forests surrounding Khe Tran are mainly
secondary forests less than 20 to 30 years old. The canopy height in secondary
forests is low, between 15 and 25 m, and the forest understorey is dense with
various types of lianas, creepers and herbaceous. During the war (1965 to 1975)
villagers used to hide in these forests so the US military tried to destroy the
vegetation. In many places villagers said that agent orange and napalm had been
used. The village has only been in its current location since 1993 with
villagers indicating other older locations on maps and in the field. The best
remnaning natural forests are far away and high up the steep mountain slope; we
could not reach them – and the villagers said they rarely go there either.
According to PDM exercises and interviews, they only go to the forest once a
month on average, to collect rattan and other NTFPs. Although they enter the
forest infrequently, their knowledge of useful plants for tools, heavy
construction, food, and medicine, is still important. Forested landscape is
considered to have an important contribution to the villagers lives through
maintaining and increasing prosperity. For instance: forest for preventing
floods, river for food and rubber for cash. ‘ Forest ’ is the most important
land type and provides material for tools, heavy construction, food for cattle,
and for sale e.g. rattan, latex, acacia, etc. Knowledge on the uses of plants is
mostly focused on plants used for feeding cattle, and at this stage of the data
analysis, our assumption is that this knowledge is decreasing, mostly because of
a the villagers’ decreasing interest in natural forest and forest resources.
This is due to the new regulations that ban most extractivist activities in
forests. For example, illegal logging by outsiders, and eaglewood collection,
are still common but the villagers don’t feel concerned by these activities, as
they have no rights in or say over the forests.
Scrap metal collection was also an important
activity for earning cash in the village’s vicinity, but as the villagers shift
to new, more lucrative activities, such as rubber and Acacia plantations, they
have less interest in metal collection. The resource is depleting and there is
still the danger of digging up a land mine.
Shrubby areas and grasslands are common. They
are dominated by Melastoma sp. and mainly used as grazing areas for cattle, and
for firewood collection. Areas with dense Imperata grass cover are also common,
without any sign of forest recovery.
Acacia sp. and rubber plantations are spreading as this
activity is encouraged by the government. These plantations also have other
uses: An Acacia plantation in the middle part of the village is also be used as
a cemetery and has a very dense herb and shrub layer, while cattle can be grazed
in rubber plantations. Most of these plantations have a high number of species
at the herbaceous layer which the local people have many uses for.