With the effects of climate change continuing to be felt around the world, communities across Vietnam’s 3,200 km coastline are particularly vulnerable to extreme weather events of increasing intensity and frequency. Intact sand dune forests and mangroves provide crucial protective functions against floods and storm surges, in addition to supplying a range of ecosystem services for local communities.
Since 2018, unique land use GmbH (Germany) and the Institute of Resources and Environment (IREN) of Hue University jointly implement the IKI project ” Ecosystem-based Adaptation in the North Central Coast of Vietnam: Restoration and Co-management of Degraded Dunes and Mangroves “. Working in partnership with local communities, this project is the first significant effort to reforest dunes and sandy areas with native tree species.
On April 18th and 19th 2023, the project partners hosted 51 attendees at a national workshop: “Restoration of coastal sand-dune forests in North-Central Coast Vietnam – opportunities and lessons learnt”, to share key findings and takeaways from the project. The event brought together the project stakeholder’s and partner communities, Vietnamese government officials from ministry to provincial level (for both participating provinces and provinces interested in running similar projects), and representatives of relevant international and local NGOs working in Vietnam.
Day 1 consisted of a range of presentations from the project implementors on topics, including the scientific principles and latest developments in the project’s restoration techniques, insights from working in partnership with local communities, and emerging opportunities for upscaling. Participants were also able to explore a photo exhibition at the conference venue showcasing key points in the project’s activities to date. Following the presentations was an in-depth discussion session overseen by Dr Hoang of IREN, where many delegates engaged with the topics raised to provide their thoughts and suggestions. The need for sand dune restoration to protect coastal communities was highlighted as a key takeaway, as was the importance of working in partnership with communities for planting and maintenance activities, with some suggestions given over how the community can use and protect the forest sustainably after the project’s end Feedback also focused on how challenging restoring forests to sandy sites is, with recognition of the value of data from the project in developing techniques that overcome the hostile conditions. Many delegates expressed hope that more information and insights would be gathered and shared by the project as it continues develop its approach.
On Day 2, attendees visited the project’s recently opened best practice nursery in Cam Lo/ Quang Tri, where the team demonstrates the how the project’s new growing techniques are producing significantly improved native seedlings that can cope better with the harsh site conditions on the sandy areas. Earlier planting attempts that used seedlings grown in the traditional nursery method were hampered by inconsistent quality and plants that were unprepared for the harsh site conditions. The best practice nursery has been designed to consistently produce high quality seedlings that improve the survival and growth rates of the plants out in the field. By regulating sun exposure, optimizing compost composition, and utilizing specialized growing pots, the nursery is producing hardy seedlings with long, straight roots capable of reaching water in the sandy soils. The new nursery infrastructure has also further improved working conditions for employees at the partner nursery. From the nursery, delegates were able to visit one of the planting sites. With temperatures reaching up to 40 degrees, the attendees were provided with a stark demonstration of how crucial the shade and protection a healthy forest provides to shady areas is to those who live there.
The project benefitted from the input of insights from the range of experts who attended the event. Importantly for the project’s co-management objectives, the participating community leaders have shared that their presence at the workshop further aided their scientific knowledge, enabled the sharing of best practices between their communities, and provided a platform through which to directly engage and their experiences of the project with relevant parties.
A further positive output of the conference has been subsequent visits to the best practice nursery by representatives from similar restoration projects in Vietnam. Poor seedling quality is a widespread issue for projects seeking to restore forests across the varied geo-climatic contexts of Vietnam, and failure to improve on traditional nursery methods continues to limit the success of planting programs. It is hoped that this sharing of knowledge and techniques will support other restoration projects across Vietnam in facilitating better survival rates and project outcomes for national forest restoration efforts.
The project is now processing the input generated through the workshop event and ongoing knowledge exchanges, while continuing preparations for a further planting period in early October 2023 where up to 120,000 seedlings will be planted across the three project provinces of Thua Thien Hue, Quang Tri, and Quang Binh.