Sustainable futures? Displacement, development and the Muong BAR BAR A RUGENDYKE
Many Muong villagers, formerly shifting subsistence cultivators in Cuc Phuong National Park in northern Vietnam, now live in resettlement villages either within or near the buffer zone surrounding the park. Cuc Phuong, the first national park in Vietnam, was originally recognized as a protected area by the Vietnamese government in 1962 and later accorded national park status in 1966 (Vo Quy, et al. 1996: 9). The park is the only remaining primary forest area in northern Vietnam, and increasing concerns about its preservation led to several phases of resettlement of villagers from the park, commencing in 1986. Generally, protected areas in Vietnam are largely in mountainous, forested ecosystems populated by ethnic minorities; the rights of these minorities to use forest resources have not been recognized (McElwee 2002). Land in Vietnam is owned by the people, managed by the state and land use rights are complex (AusAID 2000). In Cuc Phuong, as elsewhere in protected areas in Vietnam, use of forest resources is illegal, and villagers settled in the vicinity of the park are heavily dependent on subsistence agriculture which they report produces insufficient food to meet local needs and, with increasing village populations, a sustainable development path seems elusive for local Muong communities. As part of a wider study about the impacts of the nascent tourism industry at Cuc Phuong, villagers living in and around the park were interviewed (Rugendyke and Nguyen Thi Son 2005). This chapter details the demographic and employment characteristics of a sample of the population from eight Muong villages, the potential for nature-based tourism to provide alternative livelihood options for local residents, as well as other possibilities and prospects for poverty alleviation.