ABSTRACT

Forest cover in Vietnam dropped from more than 40 percent during the 1940s to 28 percent by the end of the 1980s (Nguyen Van Dang, 2001). In response to the rapid loss, the government implemented a forest devolution policy during the 1990s, under which it transferred a large area of forestland to new landholders, many of which were local households. Land-use certificates were granted to the landholders. The land-use certificate allows the holder to keep the land for 50 years, with the possibility of expansion. Five individual rights attached to the land were granted to the holders: rights to exchange, transfer, lease, mortgage, and pass the land on to third parties. The government expected devolution to be an important vehicle for the improvement of local livelihoods for the upland poor, and an effective means to put an end to swidden cultivation, which is often seen as destructive to the forest (Nguyen Quang Tan, 2006; To, 2007).