Saturday, October 02, 2010

Wanderers 2010.9.28

Dr. Cari Coe of Lewis & Clark College regaled us with stories on Tuesday, regarding land use planning in Vietnam. One of the ministries is hoping to protect remaining forest lands using a national park system. Local residents have land claims stretching back through time, and the national park overlay creates two levels of story.

Is the central government being successful in conserving these resources?

Deforestation is a problem all over Asia (and the world) and forest management really needs to extend to beyond a few protected areas. Creating new forest lands (a kind of terraforming) was not among the topics discussed however. This was about preserving some old ones.

Cari's research was on behalf of the Vietnamese government and some banks, maybe the World Bank among them. She speaks fluent Vietnamese and had a woman traveling companion or "minder" (also a friend) to give more authority to her visitations.

They traveled by motorcycle all around one of the nature preserves, interviewing about 103 families in three provinces. Cari had been to Vietnam before and is a motor bike enthusiast with lots of hands-on savvy when it comes to their maintenance.

The study is somewhat inconclusive as to the long range impact of these plans, but that doesn't mean her findings were not valuable. On the contrary, a detailed snapshot emerged, as nothing replaces field work and actual feedback from the villages.

Writing policy in some centralized bureaucracy gives no clue as to whether these policies are being followed and, if so, how.

Her status as an obvious outsider, a North American, helped interviewees speak more freely, was her impression, since she had no obvious affiliation with up-close participants, party to whatever rivalries or tensions.

Rice paddies and forest lands are deeded to caretakers and beneficiaries on timed leases, according to the latest model.

After 20 years, a parcel of rice land reverts to the government and the lease will need to be renewed or renegotiated. If the land is being used according to plan, it's more likely to remain with the family that works it. These agreements are registered in little booklets.

One goal of the research was to find out which families had booklets, and how they got them if so. In theory, protected park lands should not be deeded out, but given local authorities made the arrangements, forcible land reform i.e. confiscating lands from those with historic ties to the park lands, was not really in the cards.

The system is more like a "land lending library" than a system of titles and deeds on a market, with inheritance (where zoning and land use policies may also apply). Forest lands are lent out for 50 year periods.

The slides included some GIS and I wish I'd asked more about how much GIS is getting used in the ministries. I've been posting about GIS to math and Python discussion lists, most recently regarding Singapore's use of GIS /GPS and its possible applications (along with GST) to long haul trucking along the old trade routes, from Istanbul to the Stans, via Tehran.