Viet Nam was the first country in Southeast Asia to integrate payments for environmental services into national strategies and policies. In 2008, the Government of Viet Nam started a pilot program (under Decision 380 QD-TTg) for Payment for Forest Environmental Services, with full implementation in the whole country starting in January 2011 through the issuing of Decree 99. Decree 99 laid the legal foundation for provinces to ask hydropower plants, water companies and tourism businesses to pay a certain percentage of their income to relevant environmental services’ providers, that is, landowners and forest protectors. Services explicitly recognized by the policy are ‘water provision’, ‘aesthetic landscape’, ‘forest products’, ‘genetic resources’, ‘biodiversity’ and ‘prevention of erosion and flooding’.

The World Agroforestry Centre had significant field presence in the province, including a technical collaboration with the ‘Pro-poor partnership for agroforestry development’ (3PAD) project, funded by the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD), and action research sites under RUPES.

RUPES assessed the potential for schemes in Bac Kan province, compiled lessons learnt in Son La and Lam Dong, analysed eco-tourism in Viet Nam’s northern highlands, and evaluated carbon stock in Bac Kan province. As well, RUPES  supported the 3PAD project by facilitating the development of a community contract between Ba Be National Park as the environmental services beneficiary and forest owners and Leo Keo community as providers. The community contract is expected to be signed in 2012 and has already become a model for the 3PAD project. Further, Decision 99 and its guiding circulars were reviewed and applied to three sites coordinated by 3PAD, including RUPES’ action research sites in Bac Kan province.

Learning from the research sites

RUPES and its partners, such as the People, Resources and Conservation Foundation, gathered conservation case studies from the uplands of Northern Viet Nam, particularly in Bac Kan province. The studies were a starting point for the development of an system for forest protection incorporating rewards and/or payments for carbon environmental services. The team produced several recommendations on how to build on successful conservation models for developing such a scheme. The links between buyers and sellers of carbon environmental services was explored.

Developing environmental services rewards mechanisms in communities

RUPES and its local partners at provincial, district, commune and village levels, and especially Ba Be National Park and Kim Hy Natural Reserve Area in Bac Kan province, designed a payments for environmental services’ scheme. The team facilitated the development of a community contract between Ba Be National Park as user/forest owner and Leo Keo community as provider. A pilot scheme was developed and provided input to the guidelines of Decree 99. RUPES also facilitated a series of capacity-building and awareness-raising activities at provincial level and with the districts of Ba Be, Pac Nam and Na Ri.

Measuring carbon environmental services provided by agroforestry

Carbon storage in two agroforestry systems—home and forest gardens—was assessed. This enabled a comparison of carbon storage in shifting cultivation and forest systems. The findings will be used to negotiate rewards for carbon storage provided by agroforestry farmers. The work was carried out in collaboration with Seoul University, Korea, Michigan State University, USA and Thai Nguyen University of Agriculture and Forestry, Viet Nam.

Key findings

  • In line with designing a RES scheme, it is necessary to have detailed guidelines on PFES implementation, which is most needed at the local level.
  • PFES schemes need to be designed in a participatory manner, in ways that generate greater support and commitment amongst stakeholders. In addition, PFES must be supplemented by continuous education, training and awareness-building by governmental and non-governmental organizations and the private sector.
  • PFES needs to be directly linked to service delivery and will require monitoring of criteria and indicators.
  • Collective action in schemes has lower transaction costs than individual payments
  • Payment should be in cash and non-cash forms. However, non-cash payments through public works or public social investments will better include the poor and landless people in the payment scheme. ‘Voluntary’ is a necessary factor ensuring people’s commitment to participate in any scheme
  • Compliance with conditionality is a challenge
  • People’s and farmers’ associations should obtain legal identities, for example, a ‘cooperative’, to be able to transact business with buyers.
  • Rewards for environmental services is a new concept and understanding it takes time. According to the results of stakeholders’ workshops and consultations, we recommend indirect payments for Bac Kan province, as illustrated in the figure below. 

Policy influenced

  • RUPES contributed to national debates on rewards for environmental services’ concepts and principles and analyzed the potential and challenges of REDD+ implementation in Viet Nam.
  • Lessons were drawn from study of the payments for forest ecosystem services’ scheme. The team and partners participated actively in several national workshops and meetings to share experiences related to rewards’ scheme development in order to contribute to a better policy framework.
  • Through active participation in advocating policy at local and national levels, and dissemination of lessons learnt and recommendations to national policy makers, the RUPES team and partners contributed to national policies that are increasingly conducive to realistic, conditional, voluntary and pro-poor approaches.
  • Promoted schemes to potential public and private buyers.More than 200 people, including government officers, projects officers, village leaders and farmers, in Bac Kan were consulted and trained.