Deforestation and Property Rights in Viet Nam: The Role of Fuelwood Harvesting

Forest cover in Viet Nam decreased by more than 35% since the 1950s. As much as 75% of the forest cover has been removed in some northern areas.  Despite government sponsored reforestation programs, deforestation continues, especially when property rights to the forest are not secure and where the inhabitants are poor.  The prime cause of deforestation is fuelwood collection, accounting for 60% of the loss in forest cover.  Historically, the government owned the forests, but due to the difficulty of monitoring and enforcing property rights, households have often viewed the forest as an open access resource.  More recently, the Forest Inspectorate (FI) has allocated use rights to some forest land to households.  With these use rights comes specific managerial responsibilities that have an impact on the costs of harvesting the fuelwood.  The managerial responsibilities include protecting their lands from unlawful use and investing  in their continued supply of forest products.  On these lands, forest cover is beginning to rise again.  However, the FI has been unable to allocate all forest land.  The remaining tracts of land continue to be treated as an open access resource with deforestation continuing.


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Economy and Environment Program for Southeast Asia