Changing Indigenous Cultures through Forest Management - Case Study: Co Tu People in Central Vietnam
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This thesis deals with the socio-cultural impact of the Forest Land Allocation Programme (FLA) on the indigenous Co Tu people in Central Vietnam and whether community based forest management (CFM) can mitigate this impact. Vietnam introduced the FLA programme in the 1990s and the main rationale of this programme is that if people would receive rights to forest land, they would be actively engaged in forest preservation and protection. People have to abide to the rules stipulated by the State on forest use and management and, therefore, the FLA programme is far from being truly decentralized. Traditionally, Co Tu people are semi-nomadic swidden agriculturalists and hunter-gatherers. They have developed complex systems related to forest management and land rights. However, those systems are closely intertwined with their social and cultural systems. Co Tu people have a different perception of ‘nature’ and their role within ‘nature’ and, therefore, changing their relationship with the forests will have a significant impact on their social structures and culture. In the case of Co Tu people this has led to: (i) a different way of life; (ii) changed perceptions of nature; (iii) deterioration of traditional forest classifications; (iv) a loss of indigenous knowledge and forest management; and (v) a less important role for the village patriarch. CFM has improved knowledge dissemination among the villagers and it has strengthened the traditional clan structures within the village. However, CFM has also strengthened the role of formal institutions in the village and it has been imposed by outside agents (such as international conservation organizations) who are actively engaged in trying to ‘raise awareness’ on forest preservation and re-educating the Co Tu people.