Thursday, October 27, 2011

Co-Management in the coastal Village of Au Tho B, Vietnam

Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, SocTrang, Vietnam

Co-Management in the coastal Village of Au Tho B, Vietnam

Bianca Schlegel

Au Tho B village is located at the coast of Soc Trang Province in the Mekong Delta. The mainly poor people from ethnic minorities rely on the collection of natural resources from the mangrove forests for their livelihood, such as goby fry, clams, fish, crabs and snails as well as wood from the forest. For the poorest parts of the population, aquatic resources from the mangroves are the main source of income. With the implementation of the co-management former open access resources are now sustainably used. Resource users and local authorities negotiated together how to manage the mangrove forest and its associated aquatic food resources in such a way that the coastal protection function of the mangroves can be maintained and enhanced and at the same time local livelihoods can be improved.

Biodiversity Impact

Describe how your solution creates sustainable fisheries and promotes ecosystem health.
"Thanks to co-management I have to go less far to collect my resources.” This statement of a woman in Au Tho B clearly shows the effects of protection of the mangroves and the sustainable use of the aquatic resources – increase in species abundance and sustainable use of fisheries resources. This is a clear indicator for recovery of the forest and its resources after overutilization during open access. Co-management involves large areas which can be divided into zones in which different management regimes are applied. Rules for the zones were developed jointly by the local people and local authorities and regulate who can enter the zones and what resources can be collected, when, how (e.g. net size) and how much. This increases the effectiveness of management and protection. The zonation concept includes a protection zone, set up for the protection of aquatic species, providing them with undisturbed habitats for breeding and thus increasing the biodiversity of the mangroves. It also includes a rehabilitation and a sustainable use zone. For example: In the past newly planted or naturally regenerated mangroves in front of the established forest were often destroyed by people collecting aquatic resources during high tide, particularly when erecting fixed long nets or using scoop nets. During the negotiations for the rules of the rehabilitation zone the resource users agreed that collection of aquatic resources in this zone can only be done when the mud is visible, i.e. at low tide when the small trees can be seen. Rules for the use of certain fishing tools were also set up.
Describe how your solution protects biodiversity against local threats.
The key threats are the unsustainable use of resources from the mangrove forests and the conversion of mangrove forests into shrimp ponds. A solution to these threats is the move from overuse through open access to ownership and sustainable use as part of co-management. Although the process of co-management has only started about 2 years ago, first experiences already show that co-management is an effective way of maintaining and enhancing the protection function of the mangrove forest belt and at the same time providing livelihood for local communities. Through co-management local people became managers of the forest. Through the jointly agreed regulations the resource users are given clear and secure user rights to sustainably use resources (also rules for a zone set aside for strict protection) and the responsibility to manage the resources sustainably and protect the mangrove forests. This increases the sense of ownership by the resource users and results in improved and more effective protection of the resources. The local people spend a lot of time in the forest, and because they have developed ownership for the entire forest, will report illegal activities to the authorities without the need for forest rangers to patrol the area.They also will educate violators about the rules and why it is so important to protect the mangroves. This is supported by information dissemination about the co-management rules to local people in the neighbourhood and by general environmental awareness raising activities.
How large is the surface area where your solution is being applied?
Co-management is implemented in Au Tho B village in Vinh Hai Commune, Vinh Chau District at the coast of Soc Trang Province in the Mekong Delta. The total village area is 439.28 ha. Au Tho B has a coastline of 2.76 km and 165ha of mangrove forest with varying width. Au Tho B village has a population of 3,638 (1.2% Vietnamese, 41% ethnic Chinese and 57.8% Khmer) comprising 727 households and is the biggest village in VInh Hai Commune. 290 households out of the 727 are using and being dependent on resources in the mangrove forests as well as the adjoining mudflats and sandbanks. An overview provide the following videos:

Human Wellbeing and Livelihoods Impact

How does your solution improve human wellbeing or improve livelihoods and how many people are being impacted by your solution?
"Since we started co-management we are very happy, because our daily income has increased and we can benefit now from about 50-60.000 VND per day." This statement of a member of the co-management group clearly shows that the livelihood of the local people has improved because of co-management. Not only do they have more income due to an increase in availability of aquatic resources, they also have more time to carry out activities other than resource collection because they have to go less far for that. The latter mainly applies to women who collect fire wood for cooking. Efficient wood burning stoves were introduced which led to a reduction in fire wood need and in cooking time by 30-50%. To use less dry wood means also less damage to the forest. In addition a clam co-operative has been established following the co-management principles. The sustainable utilisation of clams on the sandbanks in front of the mangrove forests will contribute to the income of the local people and will benefit from well-managed forests. A proposal for an environmental sanitation activity in Au Tho B village focussing on rubbish collection, clean water and hygienic latrines is currently being developed to further improve the livelihoods and well-being of the community. The poor ethnic Khmer population benefits from legal and secure access to natural resources, which ensures sustainable use of the resources and effective protection of the mangrove forests. The latter is extremely important for the coastal zone of Soc Trang Province because of the negative impacts of climate change.


How many years has your solution been applied?
2 years
Have others reproduced your solution elsewhere?

Sustainability & Resilience

How do you manage your solution?
For co-management to operate effectively, active participation is required from all stakeholders. A prerequisite for this is the empowerment of local communities in order for their voices to be heard at the negotiation table. The co-management group and the local authorities have negotiated an agreement which is now being implemented under the governance of a pluralistic co-management board with representatives from the co-management group, Au Tho B village, the Commune People’s Committee, the forest protection sub-department, the women’s and farmer’s unions. Monitoring is an important tool for the board to steer the overall management. Therefore, a participatory resource monitoring system is being carried out by the resource users themselves. The monitoring programme uses two indices to monitor compliance with the co-management agreement and sustainability of the resource harvest. Indices can be used in comparisons for monitoring without the need for expensive baseline data. The resource user complete datasheets which record the amount harvested and the effort used for the harvest after each trip. For a long-term financial sustainability a payment for ecosystem services was established with the clam cooperative. Those who utilise the sandbanks commercially for clam farming benefit from a well-managed forest and the ecosystem services it provides. In exchange, financial benefits must flow from the commercial farming of clams to those who manage the mangroves. The clam cooperative will therefore pay the operational costs of the mangrove co-management group.


Describe the management and governance aspects of your solution as they relate to your local community.
During a meeting earlier this year one member of the co-management group in Au Tho B said in front of the Director of the Forest Protection Sub-department: "Before we were afraid of the forest rangers, now we work together with them." This indicates the change in people's perception. Co-management involves participation of all stakeholders. It is based on contracts made with groups of people rather than individual households, as it has been the case in Vietnam so far. Now the people organised themselves voluntarily as a strong voice working together to protect their valuable resources by following theagreed rules for each zone. In a participatory process the management area was identified, the resource users were identified and organisedin 6 sub-groups (290 households are too many for a single group which meets regularly) and group leaders and sub-leaders were elected who were accepted by all group members and who met certain criteria such as trustworthy, good morals, understanding of fisheries and forestry, knows how to read and write and interested in the environment. In addition, a pluralistic co-management board was established. All stakeholders, the community as well as the authorities, benefit from the effective protection of mangrove forests, livelihood improvement through secure sustainable resource use, involvement of resource users in resource management decision-making and reduced workload for authorities. The co-management concept for the coastal zone of Soc Trang Province is currently being expanded to two more districts in Soc Trang Province and Bac Lieu.