Whose Forest Tenure Reform is it? Lessons from Case Studies in Vietnam

April 2008

Authors: Nguyen Quang Tan, Nguyen Ba Ngai, Tran Ngoc Thanh

Publisher: RECOFTC and the Forest Governance Learning Group (FGLG)

April 2008

Over the last 20 years, Vietnam has taken significant steps towards devolving forest management and providing tenure rights to local communities. How has this changed their lives and livelihoods?


A study was undertaken in two provinces to investigate the workings and impacts of recent forest tenure reforms, and proposes key policy recommendations to address current challenges and opportunities. This policy brief focuses on four key issues:

  • Actual control over forest resources
  • Confusion among local people over forest rights
  • The impacts of forest tenure reform on poverty alleviation
  • The ability of local people to manage forests

Policy Messages

  • In practice, the allocation of forest tenure rights to local people has not resulted in communities gaining actual control over local forests. For people to take meaningful control over these resources, necessary institutional mechanisms must be prepared and power transferred.
  • Confusion over rights can undermine the efforts of forest tenure reform. Such confusion may be due to a lack of clarity in the policy framework, slow responses by authorities to remedy mistakes, and local people's limited knowledge of their rights and how to protect them.
  • The impact of forest tenure reform on poverty alleviation is unclear. Support systems and benefit distribution mechanisms that pro-actively support the poor should be established.
  • Local forest management traditions have endured in spite of decades of state control. With appropriate support, communities can build on these traditions and organize themselves to sustainably manage forests.