In recognition of the importance of mangroves and coastal forests to coastal resilience and livelihoods, Vietnam has prioritized their planting and protection over recent years. These coastal forest areas are extremely valuable for commercial and subsistence uses across Asia, particularly related to aquaculture and net/catch/gleaning fisheries. Managing mangroves presents different challenges than managing terrestrial or upland forests given the unique tidal dynamics, forest architecture, and livelihood needs. Due to the range of overlapping interests in mangrove areas, they are particularly suited to co-management arrangements that bring together government, private sector, and community stakeholders to develop and implement mutually beneficial management agreements. For Vietnam, this bottom-up, participatory approach represents a relatively new model for resource management. This report examines pilot experience with co-management approaches to mangrove management in Vietnam, and also highlights experiences from other Asian countries including India, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Thailand. Report findings underscore the following:
Broadly speaking, most community members support mangrove conservation and understand their importance for protecting infrastructure and farms, supporting productivity, enabling food security, providing income-generation opportunities across communities, and addressing climate change adaptation and mitigation needs. However, aligning household incentives to mangrove management is an almost impossible challenge. Given the donor-driven and project-based agenda for these pilots, most have lacked a long-term financing mechanism. Even in cases where the private sector has been engaged with price premiums, incentives have not been adequate to compete with alternative land uses.
Confusing and overlapping authority among different government agencies for managing mangrove areas can result in open-access situations. In many cases, no single authority is responsible for ensuring that coastal management rules are harmonized within or across jurisdictions. This calls for improved spatial planning and coordination both among sectors and from national to commune
Co-management as a process permits a valuable two-way communication between government and communities that allows for each to better understand each other’s needs and constraints. This can be an important step to build trust and is a particularly new approach in the Vietnamese context. Individualized management agreements that are devolved to certain members of communities or particular user groups can lead to the exclusion of some individuals or other user groups who have overlapping use rights.
While mangrove co-management agreements and institutional pilots can provide valuable momentum for communities, they also require formal or legal recognition by government, which can be slow to materialize. Where authority for rule development and implementation largely lies in the government’s hands, community members often lack the enthusiasm and interest to support mangrove conservation. All too often, contracts issued by the government are not clear on benefit-sharing details or dispute resolution systems.
In sum, mangrove co-management institutional structure and rules need to be designed to suit the local context. All too often, the focus has been on mangrove planting and protection, which is a tree-oriented perspective. Instead, a mangrove ecosystem perspective needs to be facilitated so that the linkages between various types of livelihood systems and the health of the ecosystem become more prominent. This underscores the need for assessments of community needs through the design of strategies for mangrove management and protection that include a participatory coastal spatial planning approach and adaptive co-management.