Thanh Ngoc Tran:
Factors Influencing Local Forest Institutions -- A Case Study of Forest Devolution in Central Highlands of Vietnam


Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Department of Agricultural Economics and Social Sciences, Germany

Devolution programme that transfer authority and management responsibility for forest resource management from government agencies to local users are often seen as a promising solution to protect forest resources. Following this trend, over the last two decades forest agencies around the world have largely pursued devolution initiation. Devolution (or forest land allocation as it is called in Vietnam) is expected that local forest institutions would be changed and forest resources would be better protected. Factors of devolution motivating local user's to change local forest institutions are not often well understood, however.

This study suggests that devolution without enough attentions paid to the roles of existing local institutions, often create conflicts between local institutions and devolution policies. Because of the mismatch between local and legal institutions, the costs for transforming the local rules are costly and benefits which could be obtained from devolution are very limited. Due to this obstacle, it finally makes devolution policies cannot be translated into the rules-in-use, and devolved forest resources are continuously declined after devolution. The study suggests that devolution can obtain its objectives unless devolution policies match local forest institutions.

This empirical study is based on a three year research project funded by Tropical Ecological Support Program (TOEB2) in the German Agency for Technical Support (GTZ). The study's aim is to assess the impacts of forest devolution on local forest institutional changes. It has been conducted in Dak Lak province, located in the central highland of Vietnam. The study has been started since 2001 consisting 18 months of field data collection plus 18 months of analysis at Humboldt University.

Keywords: Devolution, forest, institutional change, Vietnam


Contact Address: Thanh Ngoc Tran, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Department of Agricultural Economics and Social SciencesLuisenstraße 56, 10099 Berlin, Germany, e-mail:
Andreas Deininger, September 2004