The University of Arizona

Restructuring space in the name of development: the sociocultural impact of the Forest Land Allocation Program on the indigenous Co Tu people in Central Vietnam

Mucahid Mustafa Bayrak, Tran Nam Tu, Paul Burgers


The Forest Land Allocation (FLA) program was introduced by the Vietnamese government in 1991 and it allowed communities, household groups and households to receive forest land for long term use (50 years). The main assumption of this program was that with ownership, households would have greater incentives to preserve forests. But the State, through its formal agencies, still decides how the forests will be used and managed. There have been unintended socio-cultural consequences of this program affecting Vietnam's forest-dependent indigenous communities. The study focused on two Co Tu villages in Central Vietnam. Their livelihoods and their culture, institutions, social life, customs, and religious beliefs are linked to surrounding forests. The FLA program has altered the traditional forest management practices and systems of the Co Tu people, as well as their traditional institutions, particularly the role of the village patriarch, and to a lesser extent their perceptions of 'nature'. The FLA program has consolidated the power of formal institutions in both villages.

Keywords: Forest Land Allocation program, Indigenous forest management systems, Co Tu people of Central Vietnam, socio-cultural impact of development interventions, nature conservation, paradigms of

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