Marine and coastal
Marine and coastal
Co-management (shared governance) of natural resources in the coastal area
by Anh Dung Nguyen
6 years ago, no one in Au Tho B could ever imagine the kind of work they are carrying out now in their forest such as setting up a mangrove snail farm. It has been a long process, starting with the establishment of co-management group in Au Tho B in 2009. Co-management (or more appropriately shared-governance) of natural resources is a setting in which local communities take part in the resource management decision-making process together with local authorities. It implies sharing power, responsibilities and accountability among key actors. This is very different from other attempts that the government of Vietnam tried in the past to ensure people's participation in natural resource conservation. Instead of a fixed benefit sharing scheme which is often used to give incentives to people such as the right to use forest land for aquaculture or a list of resources allowed to be collected, co-management focuses on dealing with issues recognized by all key parties through negotiation and learning by doing. For example, regulations to protect young seedlings at the seaward edge of the mangrove were jointly developed based on the understanding that healthy forests provide more aquatic resources which in turn provide additional income for all people in the community. These regulations ensure that people do not go that area during high tide and limited the size of fishing nets. Another example is who is in charge and what are the responsibilities of local people and forest rangers when dealing with illegal activities. All regulations have been negotiated and written down in the co-management agreement. The growing partnership between local people and authorities has recently allowed them to jointly address the topic of how to develop aquatic resources directly from the mangroves without harming trees. Coming back from a field visit sponsored by GIZ to a nearby province, local people started dreaming about growing mangrove snails in the forest. But instead of making individual farms, the group decided to work together and create a common farm for the benefit of the whole group. The local authorities also got inspired by the plan and helped to turn it from idea to reality. The farming can still go wrong, but the spirit of collaboration for a better life through natural resource conservation among local actors is becoming the local asset.