In the pursuit of equality, securing the right to govern one’s land is an imperative step. The implications of doing so are vital: the subsequent right to secure one’s livelihood is furthered by the ability to manage one’s land, as is the right to acquire a livable income via sustainable forest management. The realisation of such an arc, however, requires the knoweldge and anaylsis of complex structures. One way to develop this capacity is by providing opportunities for participatory learning and engagement across various streams of knoweldge.
Therefore, RECOFTC--The Center for People and Forests was excited to facilitate the Vietnam Forest Owners Association (VIFORA) study tour that visited the model TreeBank in Sa Kaeo province, Thailand. Not only do study tours provide ample opportunity to engage with the knowledge of different local, national, and regional actors, but in so doing, it also develops circles of knowledge that can be redistributed. “Our members acquired fruitful knowledge and are happy to bring what they learnt back to Viet Nam,” noted Quach Dai Ninh, Deputy Director of the Forest Production Department and a Standing Member of VIFORA. RECOFTC is proud to provide its expertise to such an endeavour.
The study tour was held from the 9th of January to the 11th and was funded by the Mekong Regional Land Governance (MRLG) through an Innovation Fund Award. The objective of the tour was threefold: first to assess and identify the barriers, success factors and values for the establishment of forest-based community enterprise through Tree Bank initiative, and how this can relate to their own context; second to exchange perspectives and possible interventions to overcome challenges through collective working environments; and finally, using lessons learned from TreeBank model to identify key activities for VIFORA to integrate in its 3-year action plan.
This learning experience reflected VIFORA’s key operational principles by promoting a participatory and active learning process that VIFORA could utilise in their own communities. This was apparent, as Ban Thi Le, the Chairwoman of the Commune Woman’s Union in Hoanh Bo, Quang Ninh province, commented on this aspect. “When I go back to Viet Nam,” she said, “I will communicate to our Women’s Union what I have learned so that we can have better harmony between the environment and the people.” This was achieved through presentations, discussions, and analysis of materials between VIFORA and the Thai community-based organisations.
By facilitating the study tour with these procedures, the two actors could see the benefits of certain approaches.“The most impressive thing we learnt was how to produce vinegar from the trees. They make valuable products from simple and available resources that serve their lives,” commented Nguyen Thi Thu Hang, member of VIFORA, also recounting that “when we visited their households, it was clear that they apply of these products to their lives.” By bringing together these different perspectives, RECOFTC helped promote a more unified understanding of the complex systems of forest governance and forest use, subsequently enhancing the capacity development of VIFORA. As Vu Huu Than, Training Coordinator for RECOFTC in Viet Nam, aptly summarized: “This is one of the activities devoted to capacity building for VIFORA members,” later adding that the “knowledge and experiences gained from this tour will be applied to similar activities in Viet Nam.”