RAFT Celebrates its Achievements in Promoting Sustainable Forest Management and Responsible Timber Trade in Vietnam
The export of timber products is a highly profitable industry in Vietnam, with total revenue amounting to nearly 8 billion USD in 2017. Companies working in this industry often aim to export their products to global markets such as Europe, Japan or the United States. However, these markets have strict requirements on imported products, including quality controls, legal standards, and concerns for the environmental and social impacts of products. In order to meet international standards and requirements, Vietnamese companies and the Government have spearheaded various programs and policies. These include: the Prime Minister’s Decision 147/2007 to encourage the growth of big timber; signing the Voluntary Partnership Agreements / Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade with the European Union according to which the country commits to improve forest management and promote legal timber trade from Vietnam to Europe.
Responsible Asia Forestry and Trade (RAFT) is a partnership of seven leading organizations, building the capacity of countries, businesses and communities in the Asia Pacific to practice legal and sustainable forest management and trade. With its goal to reduce the rate of tropical deforestation and forest degradation in the region by 50% by 2020, RAFT co-operates with the Vietnam Administration of Forestry with support from WWF, TRAFFIC and RECOFTC to implement a 2-year project (2016-2018) that focuses on sustainable forest management practices, timber legality verification, policy amendments, and developing domestic market demand for responsible timber products.
Sustainable Forest Management
RAFT has helped secure strong commitments to sustainability by plantation companies in Phu Yen, Ca Mau and Binh Dinh provinces that have all set a goal of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification. Through training and technical support from WWF, an organization with extensive experience in working with companies and farmers to promote responsible forestry, nearly 3,000 hectares of this forest is now certified by FSC. This contributes to achieving the Government’s target of 350.000 ha of certified planted forest by 2020.
“The outputs delivered in RAFT3 have fulfilled its objectives in the project title ‘Responsible Asia Forestry and Trade’ in a comprehensive and synchronized way. I think donor activities that follow a project model like this will be more effective since we already have the experience”, said Mr. Le Van Bach, Director of the Forestry Production Development Department, Administration of Forestry.
To maximise its support and build the capacities of forest companies and owners, RAFT partners have also produced the Handbook on Sustainable Planted Forest Management which was printed and distributed nationally free of charge.
Timber Legality Verification
TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, has long been working with Forest Protection Department and Customs officers and identified difficulties in identifying and handling timber shipments. To fill this gap, TRAFFIC developed The Timber Identification Handling Toolkit that clearly describes 35 of the most commonly traded timber species in Vietnam.
Three training workshops were organised for officers from the North, Central and the South of Vietnam. The project distributed 1,000 Toolkits to attendees of the workshop as well as forest protection and custom departments throughout the country.
The new Forestry Law, which passed on November 2017 and will be in place in January 2019, seeks to ensure that legal and responsible logging is conducted and that sustainable forest management (SFM) can become more robust in Vietnam.
RECOFTC, in close collaboration with VNFOREST completed a report which reviewed existing SFM regulation and policy, identified gaps and suggested recommendations for promoting SFM in Vietnam. The report was shared with multiple stakeholders who would be impacted by the new law for further comment, such as forest owners and associations, processing companies and rangers.
Based on the report, a Policy Brief on key SFM policy recommendations was produced, proposing that a new policy should be developed to replace the old one. A discussion paper summarising results with multiple stakeholders was also published. An e-platform was also opened to post project products and relevant information. RECOFTC supported VNFOREST in the development of the new SFM policy, providing inputs that were integrated by the writing team during technical meetings. The new policy was developed and multiple stakeholders consulted in June for finalisation, and will be effective soon.
Raising the Domestic Market Demand for Certified Products
The majority of people in Vietnam are not familiar with certified timber products. One reason is the limited availability of such products, and the low market demand. In fact, most certified timber products are produced to be exported abroad. However, Vietnamese customers should also play their part in raising the domestic market demand and promoting responsible forestry and trade. As a first step, WWF reached out to hundreds of customers and retailers in Ho Chi Minh City and thousands of people online, to raise awareness on certified timber products through educational activities.