The acacia plantation boom in Thừa Thiên Huế Province, Central Vietnam: A survey of tree farmers' shifting livelihoods, environmental perceptions, and occupational perspectives


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The acacia plantation boom in Thừa Thiên Huế Province, Central Vietnam: A survey of tree farmers' shifting livelihoods, environmental perceptions, and occupational perspectives
Trees, Forests and People
Vu Bien Thanh, Cochard Roland, Ngo Dung Tri
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The rise of exotic-species-based plantation forestry in biodiverse tropical countries transforms livelihoods and environmental qualities in various ways. Through 180 structured interviews of different types of acacia plantation owners (producers of woodchips/sawlogs, with/without membership in a recent Forest Stewardship Council [FSC] program) we investigated such transformations in three districts along a lowland-upland gradient in Thừa Thiˆen Huế Province, Central Vietnam. We focused on how trajectories of livelihood and income changes related to the farmers’ perceptions on environmental changes, and how this, in turn, was linked to the farmers’ assessments of opportunities, risks, and concrete plans in tree cultivations. Sawlog producers (especially with FSC-certification) in the lowlands had been among the first to plant acacias in the 1990s, and in 2018 usually owned large plantations. In contrast, most farmers producing just woodchips were smallholders. Before acacias the farmers’ livelihoods were often more diversified in terms of agricultural products. Since then, many farmers (especially in the lowlands) abandoned rice/cassava production and/or livestock keeping to concentrate on wood production, willingly and/or as an outcome of land conversion (enclosure) to privatised plantations. Farmers’ incomes and material assets usually increased (especially FSC-farmers), but most smallholders still depended on
incomes from subsidiary wage labor. Within a context of ‘development’ improvements were also seen in infrastructure (buildings, roads, water provisioning) and public services (education, health). Considering acacia planting most farmers (especially FSC-farmers in the lowlands) saw environmental improvements in terms of soil fertility and landscape amenity, but not wildlife habitat. Most farmers also saw plantation value (especially on longer rotations) in terms of natural hazards mitigation (i.e. floods, droughts, soil erosion), but storms were also noted as the main risk to plantations (especially in the uplands). Another emerging risk was posed by plant diseases affecting acacias in the mid-/lowlands. Projective future plans to change plantation areas and/or crop rotations depended on the farmers’ economic strengths in terms of plantation land or other capital. Regarding future risks most farmers noted environmental impacts (storms, plant diseases) rather than economic factors (with wood market prices considered stable). Overall, the results suggest an appreciable value of acacia plantations to farmers, however with some marked distinctions between richer (FSC-certified) and poorer (smallholder) farmers as well as farmers in different regions with distinct terrain and land use management histories. We discuss such distinctions whilst also noting relevant study limitations connected to the complex socio-politics of land titling and uses, especially in the uplands.
Agricultural transition, Forestland tenure, Tree plantation development, Ecosystem services and livelihoods, Environmental perceptions, Risks and opportunities
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Swiss National Science Foundation / Projects / 169430
Swiss National Science Foundation / Projects / 194004
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18/07/2023 10:40
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19/07/2023 6:16
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