Coffee farmers in Viet Nam's Central Highlands join in efforts to conserve forestland and biodiversity
Viet Nam has established many national parks and nature reserves in recent decades. This is a vital step towards protecting the country’s valuable biological diversity. However, many of the areas protected so far are small and disconnected, hindering efforts to conserve ideal habitats for plant and animal species, maintain valuable ecosystem services, and promote local community welfare through conservation and sustainable use of natural resources.
One solution to fragmented ecosystems is to create biodiversity corridors, which provide linkages between protected areas. The Pilot Biodiversity Corridor Program, 2005–2006 helped develop such a corridor in the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong Province. The project, implemented with support from the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Poverty and Environment Fund (PEF), provides a model for how to reduce poverty by promoting alternative livelihoods while also conserving forest landscapes.
Lam Dong was a good choice for piloting biodiversity corridors because it remained well forested, with more than 600,000 hectares (ha) of forest covering 61% of the province. Much of this forestland is now protected within the Bidoup Núi Bà National Park, which is known for its diversity of flora and fauna. The park was established in November 2004, the year before the PEF project got under way.
This newly established park faced an immediate challenge of aligning the interests of surrounding residents with protecting the forestland and biodiversity in and around the park. This was no small task, as 26,000 people lived on parkland, 78% of them members of ethnic minorities. Many of these residents lived in poverty, relying on unsustainable agricultural practices, which together with logging activity, was depleting forest reserves.
Cil Yu Ha Vuong, a 72-year-old resident of the area since 1951, recalls life in those days. “Life was so hard in the past,” says the farmer, a member of the K’ho ethnic minority dominant in the area. “We did shifting cultivation. We cleared the forest, grew some crops, and after 2 years or so left for a new forest area. Such cultivation practices had existed since our great-grandparents’ time.”