A women’s group in Hang Hai village are making a difference by encouraging community members not to participate in destructive forest activities. Hang Hai village (in Gung Re commune, Di Linh District, Lam Dong province) is the site of frequent illegal logging. Every day, local people witness loggers cutting and transporting timber. Every night, wood trucks drive past the village – including one truck what killed two villagers and badly injured eight people. Both villagers and Communal Forestry Officers tried stop them but failed, and the powerful loggers and wood transporters continued.
In 2012, RECOFTC and the Lam Dong Center for Agriculture Extension conducted a training for local people in Gung Re commune. The training raised awareness of villagers so that they could better understand the role of forests in climate change, and what is REDD+, along with the important roles communities can play in forest management and development.
As a result of the training, local women’s awareness changed as they realized that sustainably managing the forest would not only benefit themselves, but also the whole community. They also realized that by joining together and taking action, they could protect their forest. Thus, they started to think about what they could do to stop deforestation.
In March 2013 the ‘Women take care, manage, and protect forest’ group was officially established in Hang Hai village by the Gung Re Communal Women’s Union. After its establishment, 37 members of the group developed operational regulations based on the spirit of volunteering for the benefit of the community. Group members learned about forest protection, and members have gained confidence from talking to each other openly, and sharing knowledge, information and experiences among themselves and with others.
The group decided to both disseminate information about forest protection in village meetings and, as group members lived in or near the forest, to report logging activity to forestry officers, the Commune Forestry Board, or the communal police.
According to Ms.Tran Thi Soi, Chairwoman of Hang Hai Women’s Union, there were eight households who were often hired for transporting wood or coal, or cutting the forest for cultivation. These households were not members of the women’s group or the Women’s Union. In addition, there were outsiders trespassing in Hang Hai forest.
Having identified the target households who needed support and advocacy, the women’s group divided itself into sub-groups. Each sub-group consisted of one or more members who lived near the targeted households who were involved in destroying the forest for pay.The sub-groups disseminated knowledge on forest protection and convinced the targeted households to stop deforestation and find alternative incomes. After continuous attempts, the sub-groups had successfully persuaded four households stop cutting/ transporting wood and burning the forest for charcoal, and to find ways to earn income from other activities.
The women’s group also went to every household to disseminate knowledge. After each dissemination activity, the women’s group organized a meeting to self-assess and discuss lessons learned. Since 2014, conflicts with forestry officers have stopped, and loggers no longer openly destroy the forest as they know they will be reported to the police.
While all acknowledge that involving villagers in forest protection and addressing deforestation is complicated and time consuming, especially when no supporting funds are available, the women in Hang Hai village are doing their best to protect the forest, motivated by ensuring a better environment for all villagers and for future generations.