LandNet led Advisory Meeting - Lobbying Circular no 38/2007/TT-BNN

  • “Forest means everything to us” Ms. Ho Thi Con, Van Kieu ethnic from Quang Binh said when she first spoke at the Advisory Meeting for guiding procedures and steps for forest allocation and forest lease to household, community and organization which was led by Landnet on April 13, 2016 under support of CIRUM. She stated a real situation in which her villagers have been lacking of forest land for years.

    Looking for better ways to implement forest land allocation programme (FLAP), LandNet coordinators from five provinces, Lao Cai, Lang Son, Ha Tinh, Nghe An and Quang Binh have come together to find down gaps in the Circular that make FLAP incomplete, and changes should be considered so that FLAP can work effectively on the ground. They hoped their voices would be heard by MARD official representatives who attended the Meeting.
    The participants indicated the Circular’s contents overlooked customary laws in forest management. Ms. Ho Thi Con stressed “Depreciating customary laws collapses community cultures.” The participants insisted on integrating customary laws related to forest management into the Circular. They agreed that by doing so FLAP would receive commitments and involvements of the local people. For those who implement FLAP, they should be fully aware of the customary laws and also respect them. Ms Con also stated a disadvantage of ethnic people as they wish to join FLAP “The Circular asks us to fill an application for forest land allocation, how about those who are illiterate? Their rights to own forest land will be taken just because they cannot write. It is unfair. We need much more administrative support which should have been indicated in the Circular”.

    Ho thi Con speaking at the meeting emphasized on the importance of forests to livelihoods of the Van Kieu people in Quang Binh. She stressed that FLAP needs to be done with respect to customary laws.
    “The Circular must put more weight on the role of commune authorities in implementing FLAP. Reason being, they are the grassroots level closest to local people and directly carrying out FLAP. Without intensive involvements of commune authorities, FLAP cannot achieve its ultimate goal” Tran Quoc Viet, a LandNet coordinator in Ha Tinh, said. The participants suggested commune authorities would be in charge of disseminating FLAP to the communities, resolving any conflict over forest land and making decision on target area of forest land allocated to households and communities as they know best about their local customary laws as well as status of local forest land. These responsibilities should be indicated clearly and in detailed in the Circular. Mr Viet also urged that “The Circular must change its priority as now it places forest allocation only over forest land allocation. For me, it is more reasonable to allocate forest land first because once forest land ownership is clear the owners have courage to protect and develop their forests”.  

    Tran Quoc Viet, Ha Tinh LandNet coordinator expressed a need to make used roles of communal leaders in FLAP.
    Transparency is deemed to be a must while doing FLAP. “At the moment, the Circular just requests to publish FLAP’s documents to provincial levels. That is not enough” Le Kien Cuong, LandNet coordinator in Lang Son, said. The participants suggested all documents related to FLAP must go to villagers enabling them to track FLAP to secure their rights. The Circular should also emphasize on the rights of villagers involving all steps of forest land allocation till they get their Red books. He added “Reviewing available forest land area in a village before FLAP is essential to avoid and resolve conflicts. Villagers should be informed about the review’s results. In addition, it is irrational to fix areas of allocated forest land applying to all places because availability of forest land areas varies locally”.

    Mr Cuong recommended villagers should have open access to all FLAP’s documents.
    Speaking at the meeting Mr Quach Dai Ninh, Vice-Head of Department of Forest Development, MARD, highly appreciated and acknowledged inputs and contributions of the LandNet. Mr. Ninh focused and said “Forest land issues at village level addressed in this Meeting are really helpful for us to think of. We strongly ask CIRUM to have a brief paper referring to today-discussed issues so that we can take it into account for revising the Circular”. 

    CIRUM/LandNet, 4/2016