During revolution and national unification, Vietnamese government nationalized agricultural and forest land throughout the country. While agricultural land was de-collectivized in the Doi moi reforms since mid-1980s, the majority of forest and forest land has continued to be managed by state enterprises. For members of Vietnam’s 53 recognized ethnic minority groups, the formation of state-owned forest enterprises (SFEs) has meant the end of customary tenure arrangements, leading to exclusion from traditional lands used for agriculture, hunting, and collection of non-timber forest products. Although in recent decades, a consensus has built on the need to change the SFE system, however, in reality it is still far to achieve the desire results. Conflicts over forest land between SFEs and local people are still widely happened in Vietnam.
This paper describes efforts to reform SFEs and resolve land conflicts, based on in-depth case studies of communities in Lang Son, Quang Binh, and Lam Dong provinces. These cases demonstrate villagers’ initiatives to obtain and use land use rights in their traditional forest lands. The paper summarizes key drivers of land conflict and concludes with recommendations for policy change in revision of the Forestry Law and improvements in the management of forest tenure rights.