Prof. Reidar Persson put forward the importance of farmes own initatives
Many large biomass plantations run into social problems, but Bai Bang seems to be an exception. Why? One reason is certainly that a market for wood was established around Bai Bang. There are many examples to show that when a market is established farmers can start to produce wood on their own initiative. In the case of Bai Bang the first plantations were established by state forest companies and co-operatives but after the economic reforms in the mid 1980s farmers started to produce trees as a commercial crop. The farmers adjusted the original intensive method so that it suited their conditions. Sometimes a good market can lead to over-investment that can give problems, but so far this seems not to have occurred around Bai Bang.
Co-operation with the local population
The second strong reason is co-operation with the local population. If large biomass plantations are to succeed it is important that most of the local population benefit in some way from the plantations. It can be employment or opportunities to sell products. If this is the case the population can accept certain negative effects such as changes in the landscape. If the local population is not satisfied with changes this can cause a number of problems.
Reforms to create an interest
The tenure reforms and the market reforms in the 1980s were certainly important to create an interest for establishing plantations. It was evidently also possible for farmers to utilize the land in the way they found best. There were not a lot of detailed rules about how they should utilize the land. Another important factor was that enough food was being produced so there was no competition between the production of food and fibre.
The situation may change
Even if much seems positive around Bai Bang there are many things we do not know. Is everyone satisfied with what has happened or have vulnerable groups experienced hardship? How important is it that Vietnam is a strong state. The “success-stories” of Vietnam, China, Japan and South Korea have certain things in common. So some of the lessons can be difficult to use (or be influenced by) in many other countries. From other parts of Vietnam there are reports of land conflicts. Will the situation also change around Bai Bang when the value of land increases further?
Prof. Reidar Persson, SLU/SIFI
Photo: Bo Olsson
Project Vietnam: http://www.sifi.se/projekt/erfarenheter-fran-vietnam/