Viet Nam is one of the countries that is worst affected by climate change. In five provinces along the Mekong Delta, GIZ has been assisting coastal inhabitants since 2011 to safeguard themselves against increasingly extreme weather events. Some of the coastal protection measures commissioned by the Federal German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) target the restoration of mangrove forests. Around 320 hectares have already been reforested. One of the villages benefiting from this is Au Tho B. Vegetable farmer Thach Soal, 67, tells us how:
Most people in Au Tho B earn a living as farmers, growing rice, onions or vegetables. In addition, the villagers also go fishing or collect fuel wood – for their own needs or to sell at the market.
It's vital to our existence – for a long time villagers did not realise this. Being poor meant that previously they took less care of the environment. They overfished the seas. And when there weren't enough fish, they chopped down mangrove trees. After a while, the forest was so decimated that it was no longer able to hold back the storm surges anymore. The sea destroyed our homes and flooded our fields, leaving them full of salt and unable to grow anything. We were forced to relocate.
In 1997 we began to replant mangroves. Gradually the forest is starting to spread again. The strip between the coast and the village now measures 500 metres. But the newly planted mangroves had a hard time in the beginning. Even though it was forbidden to cut them down, some villagers continued to do so. We had to guard the forest day and night. But gradually we were able to convince the local people they had to change their behaviour.
We have set up a conservation group that organises the way the mangrove forest is managed and that also works with the local authorities. Everyone who lives here can join in. In fact, the group now has 1,300 members. Once a month we get together and exchange information.
We have reached an agreement with the local authorities: only members of the mangrove conservation group are allowed to catch seafood or collect deadwood in the mangrove forest – and we have some clear rules on how to go about this. As a result, we have more trees and animals today. And our income has increased by half since then. We now know that we stand to benefit if we protect the forest together. And that's why we are doing it of our own free will.