Empowering local communities

June 13, 2017

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Viet Nam

Empowering local communities

About the Implementing organization


Country: Viet Nam

Year of establishment: 1991

Type of organization: Community-based association or organization


The win-win initiative has empowered local people when they are a part of solutions. Firstly, based on analysing demands and working capacity of grassroots people and willingness of the local authority, potential solutions were brainstormed and then discussed to choose which was the best for the local context. In the next step, starting from being improved the conservation awareness, the local community then supported to have alternative livelihoods which has gradually reduced their dependence on the forest as well as increased their stable income. Interestingly, after having committed to share costs to implement agricultural experiment, selected participants were funded to attend technical training courses. The success of these pioneering individuals has inspired other farmers in in the commune and six neighbouring communities to apply the model for their business. The effective replicability has been extended when the government leaders of the commune released legal documents which provided fund and human resources to maintain the success. Secondly, local people were responsible for establishing a community-based guard’s unit as well as agreeing a list of regulations to protect the forest. These groups have monitored all activities happening inside the nature reserves and punished illegal acts based on this list which is approved by the local authority.

Nature Element

Forests / Mountains / Wetlands / Wildlife

Type of Action

Protection / Awareness and education

Sustainable Development Element

Jobs and livelihoods

Related Sustainable Development Goal(s)


Environmental Impacts

There has been not any illegal logging or farming since 2004, which considerably increased the forest cover from 25 – 30%. It has led to the biodiversity recovery with dramatic development of endangered species such as Delacour Langur. In the fourteen-year period, Delacour Langur went up to be 2.5 times from 40 individuals in 1999 to 100 ones in 2015. Two new kinds of fish have been discovered and three types of globally endangered plants were only globally found in the North of Vietnam and China. The Van Long Nature Reserve got two impressive records – the area with the biggest population of Delacour Langur and with the largest natural painting in Vietnam. Until now, it has been named as a worthy type of the ideal eco-tourism which has enabled to be chosen as a filming location for primitive landscape in a Hollywood movie – Kong: Skull Island

Sustainable Development Impacts

Mechanisms to promote participation of 7 local authorities and communities in the Nature Reserve management and protection developed and well-functioned. The income of local people is stable because of the development of eco-tourism and smart agriculture. Van Long was such a hot tourist spot that travellers doubled from 30,000 in 2005 to 60,000 visitors in 2015. It is significant that the size cattle farming dramatically expanded 15 times in the eleven-year period, from 66 units in 2003 to 1080 units in 2014. There are a rising number of farmers to do climate-friendly agriculture practices from 40 models of a commune in 2002 to over 200 models of seven communes in 2015.


For years, the Van Long Nature Reserve is officially considered to have the best model of community-based management in the province – Ninh Binh, and then be replicated in the provincial level. It has also attracted a large number of foreign donors to fund following sustainable programs. For example, these donors include IUCN, TILGEPA, TGER, CEESP, WCPA, CENESTA GTZ which implemented different projects to ensure the environmental sustainable development. Since 2016, the Vietnam’s Ministry of Environment and Nature Reserves has worked with Ninh Binh People’s Committee and other relating ministries to build a Ramsar-standard profile for this protect area. Based on their evaluation, the Van Long Nature Reserve has achieved up to five of nine standards to be recognized based on the Ramsar Treaty while a Ramsar site only needs to satisfy one requirement. If this profile is successfully approved, it will be the ninth Ramsar site of Vietnam.


After being implemented for 12 years, this initiative has been successfully duplicated in Ninh Binh province. For example, there are a rising number of farmers to do climate-friendly agricultural practices from 40 models in Gia Van in 2002 to over 200 models of seven communes in 2015. Until now, Van Long has been internationally considered as one of the most successful examples in Vietnam of a marriage between community-based tourism development and species and habitat conservation, which means that its lessons can be applied for similar protected areas. Two lessons can be globally learnt. Firstly, the strong interest and commitment of local people have been the keys to maintain the success. Once nature reserves are well conserved, more tourists enjoy and then convey positive messages to their friends, relatives and colleagues. Secondly, the environmental quality and improving living standards of habitats have inspired stakeholders in other protected areas to follow.

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