This report is originates from a joint collaborative project between the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The objective of the study is to assess the current status of forest land allocation (FLA) and Payments for Forest Environmental Services (PFES) in four northwestern provinces of Vietnam: Son La, Dien Bien, Lai Chau and Hoa Binh. The paper also aims to identify opportunities and constraints for FLA and PFES implementation and to highlight policy and research gaps, which, if resolved, would lead to future FLA and PFES improvement.
These four provinces share common problems in implementing FLA, such as: (i) poor database management; (ii) inconsistent data between demarcation of the area and the area registered in the land use certificate; (iii) inconsistent data between DONRE and DARD due to varying land use classification systems; (iv) out-of-date data; and (v) a lack of human resources and political interest in enforcing FLA in highly contested areas. All of these above factors have led to slow progress in PFES disbursement and difficulties in ensuring proper monitoring and evaluation of PFES outcomes.
The provincial PFES policies in four provinces focus on two areas: (i) the benefit-sharing mechanism; and (ii) the institutional settings for PFES management at district and commune levels. Among the critical areas for PFES implementation that are recognized by all four provincial authorities (but are currently overlooked in practice), are: law enforcement for late payees and clear guidance on monitoring and evaluation. Among these four provinces, only Hoa Binh FPDF encourages the direct payment method applied for landscape protection, whereby service users negotiate the fee and send their payments to service providers directly without going through the FPDF, while the other three provinces expressed interest and support for indirect payment only.
A clear monitoring and evaluation mechanism for environmental, social and economic outcomes for PFES is needed to guide provincial authorities. The impact of FLA on environmental, social and economic outcomes is mixed and conflict over forestland will hamper the implementation of PFES. Capacity building, and political and financial support are required to overcome these challenge.