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Local knowledge on the role of trees to enhance livelihoods and ecosystem services in Ho Ho Sub-watershed, north-central Viet Nam

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Authors:Bac Viet Dam, Rachmat Mulia and Delia Catacutan

Understanding how local people view and value the role of trees in enhancing livelihoods and environmental quality is the key to increasing resilience in agricultural landscapes through tree planting. In the Ho Ho sub-watershed, north-central Viet Nam, which is highly exposed to climate change and variability, we investigated local knowledge on the role of trees that involved people upstream and downstream in the sub-watershed. The respondents were requested to identify the different roles of tree-based and annual crop systems in their landscape to livelihood and the environment, and then to rank these roles to reveal the primary function of each landuse system. We found that local knowledge on the roles of each landuse type, both in upstream and downstream communes, was influenced by the household land holding size and the actual contribution to household income as well. This, for example, explains the higher appreciation of acacia than agarwood in terms of livelihood and environmental functions. In the sub-watershed, the average land holding size per household for acacia plantation was 1.3 ha, while agarwood trees were planted in homegardens with a delayed harvesting time (15 years after planting compared to 7 years for acacia). Different responsibilities in agricultural activities between males and females in the family, contributed to contrasting responses between the male and female groups on the role of tree-based and annual crop systems in household income. Men regarded annual crops as a more important source of income than trees, whereas women asserted the opposite. In the sampled households, financial management and private consumption provision were two tasks mostly handled by women, and this likely explains the gender sensitivity. We conclude that local people in the upstream and downstream communes of the sub-watershed recognised well the important roles of trees to livelihood and environmental quality, but in actual implementation, they always prioritised livelihood over environmental issues, especially in relation to tree planting on their own land. Environmental issues were only an option considered for unallocated areas such as protection forest, or for allocated lands not suitable for planting due to physical barriers such as high elevation or steep slopes.
Published 2015 by World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) Southeast Asia Regional Program in Hanoi, Vietnam
Working paper 218

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