Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Mangrove Reforestation?

A recent article in the Japanese-English bilingual journal, Southeast Asian Studies (Tonan Ajia kenkyu 43(2) : 238-272 Dec 2005) discusses the return of mangrove forest in a province in Vietnam; unfortunately the article is in Japanese but there is an English abstract which could be of interest to those in the field of conservation:

"Why did the Mangrove Return? Institutional Analysis of Mangrove Wetlands Utilization in Ca Mau Province, Vietnam" / Suzuki Shinji

From the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, the mangrove in Ngoc Hien district, Ca Mau province, suffered serious environmental degradation from human activities such as the conversion from mangrove wetland to arable land or to shrimp farming ponds. However in the years 1994 to 2000, while the population of the area and the gross output of shrimp grew, the forest area also rapidly increased. This paper examines why these phenomena occured by focusing on the role of formal institutions for natural resource utilization.

The provincial authorities had made several regulations to promote forest since the 1970s, but these had only stimulated local organizations and residents to exploit forests for their own benefit. The formal institutions did not result in collective action based on incentives for forest conservation, particularly after a land allocation policy was applied in the district. The enforcement of land allocations to households imposed costs on local organisations, such as land use investigation and the selection of households for land tenure. Moreover, households then had to invest in preparation for shrimp farming and tree planting on their land.

Under the national forest conservation programme 327-CT, implemented in Ca Mau province in 1993, local institutions were able to fulfill their functions because budget resources created a common interest in forest conservation among local organsations and residents. Moreover, the new Land Law of 1993 permitted households to sell or lease land use rights. This affected forest conservation because preserving trees was a precondition if a household wanted lawfully to sell or lease their land. The increase in forest area in Ngoc Hien district was the result of formal institutions reducing the transactions costs of local organisations and residents.

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