Forestry and Plantations in Southeast Asia
Online in-depth seminar and lecture series
“Forestry and Plantations in Southeast Asia (SEA)” is the topic of a two-semester series of classes. During the summer semester of 2021, the class has already covered insular SEA, especially Indonesia and the Philippines. In the fall-winter semester of 2021/22, the focus will be on continental SEA.
Especially the Central Indochinese Highlands will be in the center of attention, and on the side of the three countries Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. In recent decades, it is well known that so much natural forest area has been lost, so many hectares of plantations have been developed, starting in Vietnam, then spreading across the borders to Lower Laos and Northeastern Cambodia. The Vietnamese logging and plantation company Hoàng Anh Gia Lai is one prominent example. Similar processes occur in Northern Indochina as well, for instance along the Laos-China border. During the seminar and lecture series, we would like to raise some of the following questions, for example:
- How did deforestation happen, and how did the plantation industry grow - causes, processes, and consequences.
- How would forestry or ecology sciences, geography or sociology assess this matter?
- What could and should be to done to preserve the natural tropical rain forest?
- Are there are positive, effective methods to avoid the complete loss of natural tropical forests in the region of SEA, or is it doomed to disappear?
The seminar includes a number of guest lectures from experts of the field who will give insights into the topic from different perspectives. Information on the different presentations and the guest lectures can be found in the list below.
Most of the lectures will also be recorded and made accessible on Lecture2Go.
The seminar and lecture series is primarily for BA and MA students of the Department of Languages and Cultures of Southeast Asia. However, it will be a webinar open to all, and we whole-heartedly invite all those who are interested in the environmental questions of SEA.
How to attend the seminar
Use this Zoom link to attend the guest lectures:
Students are furthermore invited to register for the class on STiNE.
22.10.21: Forestry in Tay Nguyen (Central Highlands of Vietnam) - Current status and development orientation to 2030
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 22, 2021, 14 - 16h CEST
Tay Nguyen (TN) or Central Highlands is a highland region in Central Vietnam, consisting of 5 provinces, bordered to the north and east by the coastal provinces of Vietnam, to the west by Laos and Cambodia. These are the successive plateaus from an altitude of 500m to about 1500m above sea level. TN has a tropical climate and suitable soil conditions for plant growth, so forest resources are very rich and diverse in ecosystem types such as evergreen broadleaf forest, mixed closed needle-broadleaf forest, coniferous forest, bamboo forest, semi-deciduous closed forest, deciduous forest etc. It is one of the regions with very high biodiversity of Vietnam with many endemic species, such as Thuy tung (Glyptostrobus pensilis), Da lat pine (Pinus dalatensis), ... Wild fauna is also very rich with more than 30 rare species such as elephants, gaurs, wild buffaloes, tigers, bears, etc. Apart from the value of forest products and conservation of biodiversity, TN’ forests also have an important role in protecting the environment, especially water resources because this is the watershed of several rivers, known as the "roof of Indochina".
In recent decades, forest resources in TN have been seriously degraded. In 2005, the total forest area was 2.97 million ha, accounting for 23.53% of Vietnam's forest area. By 2020, it is only 2.56 million ha, equal to 17.44% of the national forest area. In last 15 years, the forest cover rate in TN decreased from 54.4% to 45.9%. The area of natural forest was reduced from 2.83 million ha to 2.18 million ha, losing 0.65 million ha. In 2005, the TN' natural forest accounted for 27.5% of the country's natural forest area; in 2020 this is only 21.2%. In 2005, the timber stock of TN’ forests accounted for 33.55% of the timber stock of the forest in whole country, and in 2020 this number is only 27%. Forest degradation has led to serious economic, social and environmental consequences, such as soil degradation and increasing drought, for example, in 2003 the drought reduced coffee yield by 25%, in 2016 the drought occurred on 70% of the cultivated area, with an estimated loss of 60 million USD.
The causes of deforestation and forest degradation are: i) Unsustainable logging and illegal logging; ii) converting forests to agricultural production, typically planting industrial crops such as coffee, rubber, cashew, pepper, fruit trees, etc.; iii) construction of transport infrastructure, hydropower, ...; iv) forest fires; v) poverty, population growth and migration; vi) limited forest management capacity of the State, especially at grassroots level; and vii) lack of funds for forest protection and development.
In order to restore forests and develop sustainable forestry in Vietnam in general and TN in particular, the Government of Vietnam has implemented many policies such as banning exploitation of natural forests since 2017, promote protection of existing forests and afforestation, implement sustainable forest management and forest certifications according to national and international standards. In the period of 2021 - 2030, the main tasks for forestry in TN should be: strictly protect the existing natural forests; stop illegal forest exploitation; restrict the conversion of forests to other purposes; forest restoration and afforestation to reach a total forest area of 2.69 million ha by 2030, equivalent to a forest coverage rate of 49.2%, of which about 40% are special-use forests and protection forests, 60% are production forests. Focus priority in strengthening and development of watershed protection forests and special-use forests such as national parks, nature reserves, and specific ecosystems such as pine forests, dipterocarp forests etc.; to step up the planting of production forests and agro-forestry in association with the forest product processing industry.
Solutions to develop forestry in TN is continue to improve forest policy to meet the requirements of sustainable development, to attract investment in forestry, to develop forestry in association with improving the livelihoods of local people; strengthen propaganda to raise awareness about the values of forests for biodiversity conservation and forest environmental services; strengthen cooperation in research, capacity building, forest product market development, and harmonization of national with international forestry regulations; implementing international agreements/ commitments related to forestry, such as VPA/FLEGT, EVFTA, NDC, CITES, UNCBD, UNCCD, NFCCC etc.
Triệu Văn Hùng is Associate Professor specialising on forestry and silviculture. After conducting his graduate studies at the TU Dresden, he has worked as a lecturer at the Vietnam Forestry University before working for the Vietnamese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. He has worked in different projects, for example as a director for the UNDP-funded project “Strengthening the capacity of the village community to develop and implement a plan to limit deforestation and forest degradation in Ta Ngai Cho Commune, Muong Khuong District, Lao Cai Province, contributes to sustainable forest management and redness to REDD+ at the provincial level”. In 2020, he has served as a national consultant in developing Vietnam's forestry development strategy for the period 2021 to 2030 with vision to 2050. Next to that, he works as an independent cunsultant, serves as the editor-in-chief of the Vietnam Journal of Forest and Environment and is the chairman of the Vietnam Forestry Science and Technology Association (VIFA).
29.10.21: Forestry and deforestation in the Greater Central Indochinese Highlands - A view from Cambodia and Laos
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 29, 2021, 14 - 16h CEST
In recent decades, the Cambodia and Lao portions of the Central Indochinese Highlands have emerged as deforestation hotspots, as state forest enterprises and then transnational plantation companies have targeted the upland frontier. Focusing on the history and drivers of forest conversion in this area, this talk will discuss two transnational approaches to combat ongoing forest loss: community-driven land rights reclamation, using an example from northeastern Cambodia; and carbon forestry, or REDD, using an example from southern Laos. The talk will highlight the ongoing challenges of both approaches, despite some initial successes.
Michael Dwyer is Assistant Professor at the Department of Geography of Indiana University with a Ph.D. in Energy and Resources from the University of California, Berkeley. His work draws on political ecology, political geography, and development studies to investigate the uneven geographies of development in Southeast Asia. His research and teaching interests include the legacies of the Cold War conflict in shaping contemporary processes of state-managed land grabbing, the spatial targeting of land-governance interventions like land titling and climate change-focused forest conservation, and the political-economic and geopolitic drivers of new and environmentally harmful energy infrastructure in the Mekong region. Michael Dwyer is currently working on his forthcoming publications Upland Geopolitics: Postwar Laos and the Global Land Rush and Turning Land into Capital: Development and Dispossession in the Mekong Region.
05.11.21: Forest and biodiversity in Vietnam
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 05, 2021, 14 - 16h CET
Vietnam is recognized as one of the high biodiversity countries worldwide with numerous different natural ecosystems, and rich, endemic biological species, genetic resources. The differentiation and mutual impact of natural factors such as climate, topography, geology and soil on the mainland of Vietnam have created 8 forestry ecological regions with specific characteristics of vegetation types and landscape while topographical, sedimentary and climate - hydrographic factors with marine environment have created 5 marine ecological zones of unique biological characteristics. Natural ecosystems in Vietnam are abundant, in which forest ecosystems include: tropical semi-deciduous broad-leaved closed forest, tropical semi-deciduous broad-leaved closed forest, tropical deciduous broad-leaved closed forest, tropical broadleaf forest, subtropical humid evergreen closed forest, mangrove, limestone forest, coniferous forest, bamboo forest. Biodiversity in Vietnam is very rich on the aspect of ecosystem diversity, species diversity, genetic diversity. Vietnam has two very unique eco-regions: the forests of the Truong Son mountain range and the Mekong Delta region, which has been listed by WWF (1998) as "Global Ecoregion 200". In recent decades many new species of organisms have been discovered in Vietnam.
The impact of many natural and anthropogenic factors has caused the degradation of forests and biodiversity in Vietnam. Forest cover has changed much over the past century, from 72% (1909) to 43% (1943) and 28% (1995). After that, thanks to the development of afforestation, the forest area and forest coverage increased every year. By 2019, the forest area will reach 10,292,434 ha, the coverage is 41.89%. However, newly planted forests are of pure species, which make the diversity of forest structure and species composition much lower than that of natural forests. Primary forests are fragmented and exploited, occupying only about 0.5 million hectares and scattered in the Central Highlands, Southeast and North Central regions of Vietnam. The area of coastal mangroves in Vietnam in 1943 was 408,500 ha, decreased to 155,290 ha in 2000 and increased again to 164,701 ha in 2017. Endangered species on the IUCN Red List (2014) include 289 flora and fauna species.
The main causes and risks of forest and biodiversity degradation include: (i) Natural disasters: storms, flooding, land sliding, fire, etc. (ii) Human activities/Proximate causes (direct drivers): transformation unreasonable and/or inappropriate land/water use, chemical war, overexploitation and illegal exploitation of biological resources, environmental pollution & climate change, alien species invasion. Root causes (indirect drivers) include but not limited to war, demographic chance, poverty and inequality, macro-economic policies, foreign trade policies, traditional shifting cultivation.
In order to restore forests and conserve biodiversity, Vietnam has actively implemented the Convention on Biological Diversity and many other international treaties related to biodiversity conservation. Many important laws in the field of forest management and biodiversity conservation have been issused and improved, the most important of which are the Law on Forest Protection and Development (issued in 1991; amended and supplemented in 2004; then amended, supplemented and renamed into the Law on Forestry in 2017, effective from 2018), the Law on Biodiversity (approved by the National Assembly in 2008, effective from 2009). By 2020, outstanding achievements have been achieved: 164 terrestrial protected areas (2,198,744 ha - 8% natural area), 16 marine protected areas, 68 wetlands conservation parks, 2 world nature heritages, 10 ASEAN heritages gardens, 9 ramsar sites, 11 world biosphere reserves. The goal of forestry development by 2030 is to maintain a stable forest coverage rate at 42-43% nationwide; 100% of the institutions-owned forest to be sustainably managed; 20% of natural forest to be upgraded in quality with improved biodiversity conservation.
Having devoted to Earth Sciences research for over 40 years, Prof. Dr. Trương Quang Hải is a Vietnamese geographer of in-depth knowledge in his expertise and broad understanding of related scientific fields to solve interdisciplinary issues from scientific and practical perspective. The main areas of research are Geography of Natural Resource and Environment, Landscape Science, Natural Conservation, Territorial Organization, ecological economics and sustainable development. After successfully acquiring a Ph.D. at the University of Sofia, Bulgaria in 1991, Prof. Dr. Trương Quang Hải returned to the country and has collaborated with universities and research institutes around the world under scope of various scientific research and exchange programs, especially participating in the Fulbright Visiting Scholar Program in the United States over the period of 1998 – 1999. He currently holds the position of Head of Managing Editorial Board of VNU (Vietnam National University, Hanoi) Earth and Environmental Sciences Journal, Vice Chairman of Vietnam Geography Association, Member of Vietnam State Council for Professor Title in Earth Sciences and Mining, Members of the National Executive Board of Special Science and Technology Tasks for Development of National Gazetteer of Vietnam, Member of the International Landscape Ecology Association, Southeast Asian Geography Association.
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 12, 2021, 14 - 16h CET
Information on the topic and the presenter will be provided soon
19.11.21: Agro-industrial plantations and transforming socio-ecological landscapes of Southern Laos
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 19, 2021, 14 - 16h CET
Since the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR or Laos) liberalized its economy in the 1980s, it has pursued a development path built upon the exploitation of its natural environment – its forests, minerals, rivers, and agricultural land. In the early 2000s, the government began granting significant areas of the country’s land as concessions for resource investors. Over one million hectares were granted for mining and agro-industrial plantation projects. As with other countries across Southeast Asia, such land investments have produced devastating social and ecological effects, such as deforestation, soil degradation, chemical pollution, and land dispossession. Oftentimes, villagers, whose livelihoods were closely linked to land and forest resources, have struggled to adapt to the changes that plantations bring. This seminar will provide an overview of agro-industrial expansion in mainland Southeast Asia, with a focus on southern Laos. Based upon over a decade of research in Laos, it will highlight the drivers and governance of plantations and their implications for rural livelihoods and environments.
Miles Kenney-Lazar is Assistant Professor at the Department of Geography of the National University of Singapore. His research explores the changing political ecologies of land and property in the Mekong Region. In particular, he is interested in the capitalisation and commoditisation of land and how this impacts agrarian and environmental settings, and livelihoods. Empirically, he examines land contestation related to the expansion of Chinese, Vietnamese, and Burmese agro-industrial plantations and special economic zones in Laos and Myanmar.
26.11.21: Tree plantations and livelihoods - A comparative study of four forestry models in Lao PDR
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 26, 2021, 14 - 16h CET
Further information on the topic will be provided soon
Alex van der Meer Simo describes himself as a socio-environmental conscious dad and an outcomes-driven professional with more than 20 years of work experience in the environmental sector with a strong focus on community-led ecological restoration. He has received his Ph.D. from the Fenner School of Environment and Society of the Australian National University and currently works as a postdoctoral research fellow there and at the Stockholm Environment Institute. At the same time, he works as a research officer at the Biosecurity and Social Science Program of the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences. His recent publications include Livelihood Impacts of Plantation Forests on Farmers in the Greater Mekong Subregion: A Systematic Review of Plantation Forest Models, The role of agroforestry in swidden transitions: a case study in the context of customary land tenure in Central Lao PDR and Economic returns to households participating in different models of commercial tree plantations in Lao PDR.
03.12.21: Deforestation and forest degradation in Central Highland
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 03, 2021, 14 - 16h CET
Central Highlands (Vietnamese: Cao nguyên Trung phần), Western Highlands (Vietnamese: Tây Nguyên) or Midland Highlands (Vietnamese: Cao nguyên Trung bộ) is one of the regions of Vietnam. Central Highland can be divided into 3 subregions according to its deviation in topography and climate, namely: North Central Highland (Bắc Tây Nguyên) (inclusive of Kon Tum and Gia Lai provinces), Middle Central Highland (Trung Tây Nguyên) (covering provinces of Đak Lak and Đak Nong), South Central Highland (Nam Tây Nguyên) (Lam Đong). Middle Central Highland has a lower altitude and therefore has a higher temperature than the other two subregions. The region has an average altitude of 500–600 m with basalt soil, suitable for planting coffee tree, cacao, pepper, and white mulberry. Cashew and rubber plants are also planted here.
Central Highland contains in it many primitive forests and is protected in its national parks, such as Cat Tien National Park, Yok Đon National Park, Kon Ka Kinh National Park. Central Highland is home to the most prominent and also the most endangered species in Vietnam and Southeast Asia. Forest resources and forestry land areas in Tay Nguyen are facing the risk of serious attenuation due to different reasons, such as small unowned area of deep forest is being trespassed by newly arrived migrants for residential and production purposes (which rapidly increases the agricultural land in the whole region), as well as deforestation and illegal exploitation of forest products. Due to the attenuation of forest resources, the output of logging has been constantly decreasing, from 600 to 700 thousand cubic meters in the late 1980s - early 1990s to about 200-300 thousand cubic meters per year at the moment.
In recent decades, natural forests in Vietnam were continuously devastated, becoming one of the top problems in Vietnam. In particular, natural forests in the Central Highlands have been severely decreased. This has left enormous implications, from the destroyed ecological environment, the regressive traditional culture of about 20 ethnic minorities living here to the social insecurity. But most importantly, forests are the whole life of ethnic minority people and they depend on forests. Deforestation has already caused serious consequences to the environment, including erosion and drought. Forests retain water and prevent erosion. Deforestation causes erosion and makes soil poorer, leading to falling agricultural productivity.
Unscientific cultivation has caused a great loss of vegetation on the earth surface, leading to land erosion. Hundreds of hectares of production land and thousands of tonnes of nutrition and organic matter have eroded into the Mekong River and East Sea every year. In addition, the declining forest coverage reduced underground water, soil humidity and the microorganism population. The result is that farmland has become poorer and poorer. Some areas in the Central Highlands have annual droughts and even face risks of desertification.
Changing forest land into plantations comes with trade-offs, including harmful consequences to the environment and ecosystem, and more severe climate change impacts. Land degradation is seriously affecting Central Highlands provinces. The region has 5.4 million hectares of natural land, but forest areas have declined significantly due to loose management by authorities, leading to improper use. Scientists suggested restricting the use of forestland and reorganizing the plantation structure in the Central Highlands. They stressed that local farmers should diversify what they plant, rather than just planting coffee, in order to maintain an ecological balance. In 2019, the Prime Minister has recently approved a forest protection, restoration and development programme, aiming to increase forest cover in the Central Highlands to 49.2% by 2030.
Lê Xuân Trường is an Associate Professor specialising on forestry and silviculture. After graduating his B.Sc. and M.Sc. in Forestry at the Vietnam University of Forestry (now Vietnam National University of Forestry (VNUF)), conducting his Ph.D. program at Colorado State University in Forest Science, he has worked as a senior lecturer and Dean of Forestry Falculty at VNUF. He has worked in different projects, for example as a director for the Vietnam-Netherlands research program funded project “Study on the solutions for sustainable bamboo resources management in Ngoc Lac district-Thanh Hoa province”, the JICA funded project “Implement REDD+ through Forest Management Scheme in Dien Bien province”, the MARD funded project “Study on rehabilitation of Arundinaria sp.2 in some province in Northwest area for sustainable supplying material for export”. He was involved in several projects at different levels in the forestry sector. Next to that, he works as an independent consultant for both domestic and international organizations in Vietnam such as the State Union of Farmer, National Extension Center, REDD+ readiness preparation, Management Board of Forestry Project, JICA, JIPRO, IFAD, GIZ, LEAF.