Addressing problems of conservation management at the Cồn Lu ecological rehabilitation zone - recognized as an important bird area (IBA) of the country as well as the main location for mollusc farming in northern Việt Nam has been a long-time concern of the Xuân Thủy National Park and local communities. In 2006, based on lessons learnt from co-management mechanism for wise and sustainable use of natural clam genetic resources in Red River estuary, the Xuân Thủy National Park has proposed to implement the model on co-management, benefit sharing of sustainable extensive clam farming in Cồn Lu ecological rehabilitation zone in Xuân Thủy National Park.
Sustainable extensive clam farming model with local community in Xuân Thủy National Park
On 2/2/2012 in Decision no. 126/QD-TTg, the Prime Minister has allowed Xuân Thủy National Park to pilot the benefit sharing mechanism, including the model of extensive clam farming in Cồn Lu ecological rehabilitation zone with local communities. Since then, the National Park has received supports from the Project “Removing Barriers Hindering Protected Areas Management Effectiveness in Việt Nam” (PA Project) supported by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) implemented by the United Nation Development Program (UNDP) and approved by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment at Decision no. 2328/QD-BTNMT to implement a component on: “Develop and organize the implementation of the pilot on co-management and benefit sharing of sustainable extensive clam farming for local communities”; from which to develop a new financial mechanism for Xuân Thủy National Park and surrounding communities, from the collection of environmental services in land use for extensive clam farming to form environmental accounts, subsequently pay this money to receiving subjects according to the decision by Nam Định Provincial People’s Committee.
After the development of the proposal and some consultation workshops with relevant stakeholders, on 23/1/2015, Nam Định Provincial People’s Committee promulgated Decision no. 119/QD-UBND approving the pilot of co-management on extensive clam farming in Cồn Lu ecological rehabilitation zone in Xuân Thủy National Park.
According to the pilot scheme, the co-management mechanism between Xuân Thủy National Park and the local authority and community has been established during the implementation of the extensive clam farming model in Cồn Lu ecological rehabilitation zone. With this co-management mechanism, benefits and responsibilities of stakeholders implementing the Scheme have been clearly institutionalized. Also within this scheme, Giao Thủy District People’s Committee was assigned by Nam Định Provincial People’s Committee to support the National Park to sign contracts of benefit sharing through allowing the community to use surface water areas for extensive clam farming in the region, and also to collect payment for forest environmental services according to the agreement, hand in the environmental fund to the Xuân Thủy National Park. This environment fund will then be paid to beneficiaries according to the decision of the Provincial People’s Committee.
However, even when the Decision approving the scheme was promulgated by the Provincial People’s Committee, during the implementation, there are still arising difficulties and challenges, particularly the fee collection as a new financial mechanism for the Xuân Thủy National Park and the local community as there is a new policy in Decree no. 67/2014/ND-CP by the Government relating to the exemption of fees to support the fishery in the new context. While in Decision no. 01/QD-TTg dated 2/1/2003, the Prime Minister has assigned the whole area of 7,100 ha in the tidal area of the Red River estuary to the Xuân Thủy National Park for nature conservation, including the areas for extensive clam farming in Cồn Lu ecological rehabilitation zone that the local community is conducting the farming.
To solve this issue, on 5/10/2015, the Government Office issued Document no. 7991 /VPCP-KTN on piloting the benefit sharing in protection and sustainable development of special use forests, in which allows the Xuân Thủy National Park and other national parks to pilot the benefit sharing in conservation of special use forests to continue the implementation of the benefit sharing mechanism according to Decision no. 126/QD-TTg by the Prime Minister.
Accordingly, on 7/10/2015, the National Park Management Board and Giao Thủy District People’s Committee organized a community consultation workshop on agreement for payment for forest environment services regarding mollusc farming households in the region. The workshop achieved a consensus so as the Management Board prepared a proposal to Nam Định Provincial People’s Committee to approve the pilot scheme. On 23/10/2015, in Decision 34/2015/QD-UBND, Nam Định Provincial People’s Committee allowed the National Park to implement the pilot scheme on co-management of extensive clam farming in Cồn Lu ecological rehabilitation zone. This is a legal document with long-term impacts, supporting the National Park and local communities to implement the co-management mechanism, benefit sharing and pilot the new financial mechanism in the region in a sustainable way.
Currently, Giao Thủy District People’s Committee together with relevant parties have made great efforts to finish the remaining tasks of the Scheme. Therefore, an old barrier existing many years in Xuân Thủy National Park was removed. This is a proof on the effectiveness of adaptive policies, meeting practical requirements and harmoniously combining conservation and development in Xuân Thủy National Park.
Hopefully, this model on co-management, benefit sharing and piloting of new financial mechanism for Xuân Thủy National Park will be the key to support the National Park to finalise the appropriate management mechanism, meeting the requirement of harmonious combination between conservation and development in the region; at the same time, to support the Government to implement international commitments at the National Park – Ramsar Site –Xuân Thủy National Park and the cross-provincial World Biosphere Reserve wetland in the red River delta. Lessons learnt from the new management mechanism in Xuân Thủy will support central management agencies to develop policies on wetland conservation policies to be more effective and feasible in the future.
Nguyễn Viết Cách
Director - Xuân Thủy National Park