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Vietnam prepares for long-term agroforestry strategy to address national and international commitments

Mountains in Northwest province show signs of erosion from unsustainable farming practices. Photo by Robert Finlayson/ICRAF
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Mountains in Northwest province show signs of erosion from unsustainable farming practices. Photo by Robert Finlayson/ICRAF

Vietnam is preparing for a long-term strategy to speed up the adoption of agroforestry nationwide.

Agroforestry has been practiced for a long time in Vietnam. However, widespread adoption remains limited. Building on previous work to address barriers to adoption, a workshop was held on April 5, in which participants agreed that a long-term strategy for the development of agroforestry throughout the country was needed to address national and international commitments.

Titled “Enhancing Agroforestry Development in Vietnam: Policy Environment and Investment Opportunities”, the workshop featured presentations by Nguyen Ba Ngai, vice director of the Vietnam Administration of Forestry; Chu Van Chuong, vice director of the International Cooperation Department of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development; Yurdi Yasmi of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO); and Delia Catacutan, country coordinator of the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) Vietnam.

Read more: Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development awards ICRAF coordinator for agriculture and rural development work

The workshop was another step forward after a 2015 national policy dialogue for agroforestry development, from which two actions were implemented with technical and financial support from FAO. First, a review of agroforestry-related policies; and, second, the formulation of an agroforestry development proposal for the country. Progress on these two actions was presented at the workshop to ensure the most viable strategies were developed for Vietnam.

The policy working group presented its analysis, confirming that there was no specific policy for agroforestry development, the situation being compounded by a lack of legal definition of agroforestry practices and lack of official guidelines. The working group highlighted that many of the barriers to adoption could be addressed through the promulgation of supportive policies, including on land and tenure, financial mechanisms and rural advisory or extension support for farmers.

Workshop participants pose for a photograph. Photo by Tran Ha My/ICRAF

The Northern Mountainous Agriculture and Forestry Science Institute, ICRAF and UN-REDD presented their experiences of promoting agroforestry practices in different regions of the country, followed by an FAO presentation on the National Target Program on Sustainable Forest Development and Drought Initiatives, which was reinforced by a call for all present to work together to prepare a proposal on nationwide agroforestry development.

Just what shape that would take was discussed by the participants, with many agreeing that it was necessary to have an official definition of agroforestry upon which to base a legal framework for a specific policy and subsequent activities. Others, however, argued that it was not necessary to have a unique policy for agroforestry, saying it would be better to integrate practices into existing policies relating to forestry, agricultural extension or advice, and payment for forest environmental services.

Overall, the workshop participants agreed that there were many way to achieve more effective promotion of agroforestry, such as through promulgating agroforestry techniques, improving governance, establishing financial mechanisms, developing markets (including carbon), increasing education and training, integrating with payment for forest environmental services and UN-REDD programs, and adopting organic certification.

Participants also agreed that there was an urgent need for a nationwide study of agroforestry to assess the successes and lessons from existing practices, regions suitable for agroforestry and the main commodity species. The participants expected that a long-term strategy for the development of agroforestry in Vietnam would be developed in the near future.

Read more: Agroforestry sites in Vietnam provide lessons for farmland in Bhutan and Nepal

Representatives from the Vietnam Administration of Forestry, FAO, ICRAF and the Japan International Cooperation Agency covered such a strategy in a panel discussion. They argued that Vietnam should have a national program with targets and resource mobilization for long-term development. The government is expected to be able to gather national and international partners to fill the gaps in technology, finance and markets.

There was also discussion of deeper collaboration to speed up the adoption of agroforestry. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development expressed its support for partners continuing to work with the government in restructuring the agricultural sector to increase production quality, quantity and value.

By Pham Thanh Van, originally published at ICRAF’s Agroforestry World


This work is linked to the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.

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  • More than putting a price tag on the planet

More than putting a price tag on the planet

Putting a price tag on nature, really? Photo: Terry Sunderland/CIFOR
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Putting a price tag on nature, really? Photo: Terry Sunderland/CIFOR

By Suzanna Dayne, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

How do we calculate the worth of nature? What carries the highest value: the habitat of an endangered species, a local community’s traditional landscape, or a nation’s income from, say, timber exports?

Questions like these are what a team of researchers from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and partner institutions grappled with in their latest study.

The study makes the case for a ‘new school’ of ecosystem valuation practice that allows for the weighing of multiple values in making land-use decisions.

“Ecosystem valuation can be difficult and controversial, and classical economists have often been criticized for trying to put a price tag on nature,” says Dr. Sander Jacobs, a researcher at the Research Institute for Nature and Forest and a lead author of the study.

Jacobs says one of the issues is that when people talk about valuation, they usually think about money. But in ecological economics, the word takes on a much broader meaning.

“Valuing is what we all do, all the time, when making choices,” says Jacobs.

“Valuation in the broad sense is about assigning importance, and in an ecosystem context this means looking at how people value their environment – not only economically but also socially, culturally and ecologically.”

As the world responds to the challenges of climate change, and awareness grows about its severe social and environmental impacts, there is an urgent need to integrate nature’s diverse values more comprehensively and transparently in decisions and actions.

“Agencies in charge of protecting and managing natural resources must often make difficult decisions on land and resource use,” says Jacobs.

“Sometimes environmental and human needs can co-exist, but often there are trade-offs and leaving certain values out of such decisions can have a devastating impact on everyone.”

A timber yard with wood from the amazon, Quito, Ecuador. Photo by Tomas Munita for Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

MORE THAN MONETARY VALUE

For decades, there has been strong scientific debate between monetary and non-monetary schools of ecosystem valuation. In order to tackle current global challenges, a growing group of researchers argues that a new approach is needed – one that will balance ecological, socio-cultural and economic concerns, leading to better-informed and fairer decision making.

“We need a new culture, a new take on valuation,” says Jacobs.

“Everyone knows the main approach we have followed is a monetary approach, mainly because there are a lot of tools and methods for this, and there are a lot of economists around. But when confronted with real-life practice, a single-method approach is shown to be flawed. We found that what is needed is a new valuation school that takes a cohesive, inclusive approach, rather than pitching one [method] against the other.”

“We need decision makers to see the economic information and then say, ‘Interesting, but now I also need the social and ecological data to make a full evaluation,’” he adds. “And when you look at the reality – the real-life context where decisions are being made – decision makers are taking into account different values. They just need the balanced information.”


AN APPROACH THAT WORKS

The researchers based their findings on more than two dozen valuation studies, covering subjects ranging from urban planning in France to impacts of fracking in Australia and social struggles in environmental conflicts in Colombia. These were presented together with the complete valuation school study in a special issue of the journal Ecosystem Services, complemented by theoretical underpinnings on valuation and a twin issue on shared values.

A key lesson drawn from the studies is that an integrated valuation approach is more widely accepted by decision makers, while a single-valuation approach – scientifically elegant as it might be – is often disputed, discarded, or simply ignored in practice.

Recent policy initiatives such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), which assesses the state of biodiversity and the ecosystem services it provides to society, were also considered in the study and found to take an integrated valuation approach that achieves positive results.

“What’s exciting about IPBES is that this is a politically legitimate assessment: governments, NGOs and indigenous people are all represented, and they agree on important conclusions,” says Jacobs.

“So this sends a strong message. For example, while scientists and NGOs already knew pesticides were hurting our bees, through IPBES it became a political fact that could leverage actions and can have a major impact on future policy decisions.”

IPBES is championing an integrated valuation approach in its global assessment on the values of nature, which will take into account these studies, as well as others being conducted around the world.

The IPBES assessment takes into account three ‘value dimensions’: the value of nature itself, regardless of its use to humankind; nature’s contributions to humankind; and the high quality of life that our relations with nature provide.

“It’s important that knowledge gaps in these three areas are filled,” says Jacobs. “But it is great to see that these concepts are being worked on and can be integrated into high-level policy documents.”

NO SILVER BULLET

The study states that in order to have an impact beyond academic theorizing, ecosystem valuation researchers need to learn from real-world application of valuation methods, sharing successes and failures, and actively tailoring research processes to fit with reality on the ground.

“Of course, there are no silver bullets,” says Jacobs. “Scientists like to present them, but they don’t exist. We will have to adapt the methods to every single context, and this is a key message. There is no perfect template.”

In the end, he says, researchers need to ask themselves: ‘Who am I doing this research for, what will it be used for, and who will be impacted?’ To this end, researchers must be careful to include in their research the values of the entire range of stakeholders, particularly those at risk of being under-represented in decision-making processes.

“Valuation scientists need to go to the field and see the reality for themselves before even thinking about what method or expertise is needed. We need to involve all value dimensions and consider each one to inform decisions,” says Jacobs.

“We, as scientists, need to go beyond the theoretical. We need to solve real problems.”

For more information on this topic, please contact Sander Jacobs at [email protected].
This research was supported by the Openness FP7 Project

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