Why is ACIAR funding restoration projects and how does the investment in research and practical solutions help to advance restoration initiatives?

Photo by Tran Ha My/ICRAF Vietnam

Natural resource decline is a global issue, and restoration is a strong focus of the strategy for ACIAR’s forestry research program from 2021-2025. In Vietnam, especially in the northwest region, soil erosion and forest loss are growing concerns of the government and farmers. Therefore, in our ACIAR 10-year strategy in Vietnam, we aim to improve resource use efficiency, and at the same time, improve the livelihoods and incomes of smallholder farmers. Because if we want to do community-based restoration, we have to ensure farmer’s livelihood first. And the two-phased AFLI project is a perfect realization of these strategic goals.

Over the last ten years, the AFLI project has established outstanding partnerships with many smallholder farmers, international and Vietnamese researchers, and the local department of agriculture in mountainous provinces of Vietnam to introduce agroforestry as a solution for land restoration and forest rehabilitation.

Photo by ICRAF Vietnam

The agroforestry systems developed by the project have proven to control soil erosion compared to monocropping. But, more importantly, agroforestry also exceeds the monocropping practice in yields and income, which is key in encouraging farmers and local authorities to scale up and scale out the systems, sustaining soil and land nutrition richness. In addition, the suitable map for different agroforestry options has been produced, supporting the development program of local authorities.

In phase 2 of the project, the ICRAF team has collaborated with the Southern Cross University and Vietnam Academy of the Forest Science to rehabilitate degraded forests in Vietnam. The project has focused on restoration practices with suitable trees, in which the native varieties are preferred, helping farmers develop seedling nurseries for sustainable material resources. These have set forth foundations for long-term restoration in Vietnam. Especially, we highly appreciate the scientists’ efforts in balancing divergent needs: between investigating multiple possible rehabilitation methods and meeting the immediate income desire of local farmersto ensure their participation in forest rehabilitation. As a result, we have seen project partners’ increased learning about restoring forests in ways that provide sustainable benefits to the community. These learnings are extremely valuable for the long-term forestry development of Vietnam and many other countries of the same needs.

In short, we are satisfied and inspired to see that ICRAF has led an impactful and highly participatory project whose outputs can contribute to the high-level, strategic goals of Vietnam for forestry development.