Assessing the Social Benefits of Tree Planting by Smallholders in Vietnam: Lessons for Large-Scale Reforestation Programs

  1. Pamela McElwee
  1. Department of Human Ecology, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, 55 Dudley Road, New Brunswick, NJ 08901 U.S.
  1. pamela.mcelwee{at}
  1. Tran Huu Nghi
  1. Tropenbos Vietnam, 1 Đoàn Hữu Trưng, Phước Vĩnh, Thành phố Huế, Thừa Thiên Huế, Vietnam.


In recent decades, Vietnam has embarked on several ambitious projects, including restoration of coastal mangroves and the expansion of national forest cover through large-scale tree planting efforts. Much of the work is being carried out by individual households, who now likely control a majority of planted productive forest land. Yet despite the strong role for smallholders, questions have been raised about the social benefits of their participation, and insufficient attention has been paid to whether these programs are truly aimed at restoration or more narrowly at plantation development only. This paper assesses several of Vietnam’s recent tree-planting projects against the Society for Ecological Restoration’s standards, particularly around social benefits, and concludes that Vietnam is failing on most measures, ranging from stakeholder engagement to natural capital benefits. Overall, smallholders mostly view the tree planting projects in terms of financial benefits from short rotation cycles for pulp and woodchip mills, which offer low value, few social benefits, and little ecological restoration potential. The paper argues that Vietnam would benefit from more engaged restoration activities that pay attention to social benefits for smallholders, ensuring more long-term sustainability for both people and forests.


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