Vietnam learning how to balance conservation with people’s livelihood needs

One of the great challenges facing many developing countries today is balancing the need of millions of rural poor to feed their families by harvesting forest animals and plants with the need to protect the forests from excessive damage.

The World Bank estimates one billion people living in extreme poverty depend partly on forests for their livelihoods and that forests contain 80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity.

In Vietnam, home to five of the world’s rarest primates, hundreds of thousands of the country’s rural poor rely partly on forests for their well-being.

There is no doubt the people’s daily struggle against poverty is a major cause of biodiversity loss. What is less well known is that efforts to stop biodiversity loss often cause poverty.

Finding the right balance between conservation and poverty reduction is the central issue in a major workshop this week. Hosted by the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) with support from the MacArthur Foundation, the workshop will bring together 15 key figures from conservation agencies, development organisations and government departments from across Vietnam.

Assisting them will be a team of experts from universities in and research organizations in Asia, Australia and Europe. The international and local experts will work together to on better understanding conservation and development initiatives can be aligned to produce win-win outcomes that help reduce poverty while causing minimal harm to biodiversity.

The workshop is part of the Lower Mekong Conservation and Development Project, which is analysing how conservation is influenced by such factors infrastructure developments, land-use change, government polices and market opportunities.

The study will provide strategies and tools for conservation organisations and government agencies working in 15 landscapes across the region (in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam). We hope to foster learning amongst conservation organisations and government departments, to better understand how conservation and development can be improved.

The workshop will run from the 18th to the 22nd of September in Cat Tien National Park and is facilitated by Terry Sunderland (CIFOR), Manuel Ruiz Perez (Universidad Autonoma de Madrid) and Luke Preece (Charles Darwin University). The workshop will bring together fifteen experienced personnel from conservation organisations, development organisations and government departments working in five landscapes in Vietnam (Cat Tien National Park, Quang Nam Province, Bach Ma National Park, Tam Dao National Park and Hoang Lien Son Nature Reserve).

The objective of the workshop is to answer the question: “What strategies have contributed to the achievements of landscape scale integrated conservation and development projects in the Lower Mekong countries?”

To answer this, participants will compare landscapes, threats and strategies of implemented biodiversity conservation projects. It will be an informal meeting to begin to compile information on local people, institutions and political arrangements, and project management. The next step in the project is to collect information from landscapes in Cambodia and Laos. The project will continue until mid-2009, when participants from across the region will distil lessons for international dissemination.

For interviews about the workshop and project please contact:

For all queries please contact:
Feby Litamahuputty, CIFOR (f.litamahuputty@cgiar.org) and
Luke Preece (lukepreece@gmail.com)

Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)
Lower Mekong Conservation and Development Project
(Funded by the MacArthur Foundation)
Vietnam Workshop
Cat Tien National Park, Vietnam
September 18th – 22th 2007

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