With 54 recognised ethnic groups (IWGIA, 2012) and a population of approximately 92 million (CIA, 2013), Viet Nam is culturally-rich, and the most densely populated country in Southeast Asia. The country has high levels of biodiversity with 1,534 known species of amphibians, birds, mammals and reptiles, of which 8.2% are endemic.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) states in its 2010 Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA) that 41.9% of Viet Nam’s total land area is forested. However, the Viet Nam Administration of Forestry (VNFOREST) reports that forest cover in 2011 totalled 39.7% (VNFOREST, 2013). The majority (72%) of Viet Nam’s forests are classified under public ownership (FAO, 2010).The FAO states that less than 1% of Viet Nam’s forest is primary forest, defining primary forest as naturally generated native forest with no clear signs of human activity and undisturbed ecological processes. The remainder is reported as 74% ‘naturally regenerated forest’ and 25% ‘planted forest’. Between 2005 and 2010, Viet Nam demonstrated average annual net change in forest cover of 1.08%. Despite this overall increase, various regions of the country including the Central Highlands, the Central Coast and the East of the southern region are still experiencing high rates of deforestation.
The drivers of deforestation in Viet Nam are varied. Forest conversion is occurring to allow for infrastructure improvements to support a rapidly developing economy, as well as for agricultural cultivation to support the lives of the rural Vietnamese, which make up 71.7% of the population. Illegal logging is a continuing problem. There is an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 forest violations per year, very few of which result in criminal prosecution. Viet Nam’s economy continues to grow, with GDP for 2012 valued at USD 138 billion (CIA, 2013). Major industries include agriculture, food processing, garments, shoe making, mining, coal and steel making. Viet Nam’s main agricultural products are rice, coffee, rubber, cotton and tea. Agriculture’s share of economic output has continued to decline (to less than 22% in 2012 from 25% in 2000), whilst industry plays an increasingly prominent role, increasing from 36-41% of economic output in the same period (CIA, 2013).
CIA. 2013. The World Fact Book. Vietnam. Available here. [Accessed April 2013]
FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANISATION OF THE UNITED NATIONS (FAO). 2010. Global Forest Resources Assessment 2010.Country Report. Viet Nam. Available here. [Accessed April 2013]
INTERNATIONAL WORK GROUP FOR INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS (IWGIA). 2012. Indigenous peoples in Vietnam. 2012 yearbook article. Available here. [Accessed April 2013]
VIETNAM FORESTRY ADMINISTRATION (VNFOREST). 2013. Project proposal restructuring the forest sector in the period 2012-2020. January 2013. Available here. [Accessed April 2013]