“The voice of people in our village is stronger now.”
Forest protection programmes have the potential to lift people out of poverty at the same time as saving trees from destruction. Yet when we visited one community in Vietnam, we found many families had no idea they could benefit. With the help of community leaders, we’re making sure no-one is left behind.
Ho Thi Quy lives in Khe Ngang village, in Vietnam’s Quang Binh province.
Like her fellow villagers, her family mainly lived off growing rice – until the government offered them an extra source of revenue: protecting the local forest, and planting trees.
But not all families could say the same.
When Towards Transparency (the local chapter of Transparency International) visited the area, they learned that local leaders like Nguyen Thi Quyen had their concerns about the initiative.
“We discovered that 70 families in Khe Ngang were not aware that they could join the programme and receive additional income from it,” she explains.
This is a remote part of the country, and literacy is low.
In remote forest areas, information gaps can be dangerous: when ill-intentioned people know there is no oversight, and when locals do not know their rights or where to complain, it can result in projects leaving people behind, funds not reaching communities or only benefiting the few.
This is why Towards Transparency – like other Transparency International teams around the world – run training sessions and workshops to raise awareness and monitor forest protection projects.
The need to involve forest communities will only grow as international finance reach places like Khe Ngang. This is because of a global UN forest protection initiative, REDD+ – which has already seen an investment of $2.81 billion globally.
Ensuring that forest communities have a say in REDD+ policies and projects could herald high standards of integrity from the outset, and for the long term.