Research implemented by the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) in Vietnam as part of Humidtropics has found that the area under trees in three provinces in the Northwest of the country has increased by as much as 26% between 2000 and 2010.
According to the report Land use change analysis in Dien Bien, Son La and Lai Chau provinces, Northwest Vietnam, for the period 2000- 2010, the increase in tree cover in Dien Bien, Son La, Lai Chau and Lao Cai provincesâ€”which constitute the Northwest Vietnam Action Site of Humidtropicsâ€™ Central Mekong Flagshipâ€”was primarily caused by trees replacing bare land and shifting cultivation areas. In particular, government reforestation programs planted trees on steep slopes and also provided farmers with technical and financial support to establish rubber plantations.
The researchers analysed land-use maps produced in 2000, 2005 and 2010 by the General Department of Land Administration of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. The land-use classes were grouped and renamed to estimate the changes in agricultural areas.
Bare, unused land was the second largest area across the three provinces in 2000. However, by 2010 almost a half of its area in three provinces had been converted to other land uses, primarily to tree cover of one sort or another.
The area under annual crops in Dien Bien and Son La also exhibited an increasing trend, although the area was much smaller compared to the sizes of trees and bare land. By 2010, annual crops occupied only 4% of Lai Chau, 6% of Dien Bien and 15% of Son La. Expansion in annual crop areas occurred from conversions in shifting cultivation areas, natural forests and perennial crop areas.
The area under shifting cultivation decreased across the three provinces as treed areas expanded or as the farmers abandoned opened areas in the face of government policies that prohibit the practice. This has led to a transformation of large portions of shifting cultivation areas into bare land with some scattered trees but also into treed areas or conversion into permanent annual crop land.
The combined area of annual and perennial crops in the three provincesâ€”approximately 358Â 000 haâ€”represents an important focus for Humidtropics in the Central Mekong Flagship. Sustainable intensification and/or diversification in these environmentally and socially fragile areas could lead to long-term environmental and economic sustainability for thousands of poorly-resourced ethnic minorities in the region.
The challenge now facing researchers in the Action Site is to provide a suite of integrated agricultural systems that suit the needs of the people and also the environment of the Northwest.
Download the Situational Analysis of the Northwest Vietnam Action Site of Central Mekong Flagship and read our blog entitled Beyond the (Agricultural) Field of Vision in Vietnam.
Blog by Nguyen Mai Phuong, GIS Specialist/Researcher, ICRAF Vietnam, and edited by Robert Finlayson, Regional Communications Specialist, ICRAF Indonesia and by Lisa Hiwasaki, Central Mekong Flagship Manager, Humidtropics/ICRAF. Photos by La Nguyen/ICRAF.