Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Environmental Studies (MES)


Geography & Environmental Studies


Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Derek Armitage

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor

Second Advisor

Steffanie Scott

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


Forestry-based livelihoods in remote Vietnamese communities have been influenced in recent years by forest land allocation schemes, changes to property rights, and forest management devolution initiatives. Examples include the Five Million Hectare Reforestation Program, Project 327, and official “Red Books” that grant long-term land use rights and access rights to villagers. Major challenges to forestry-based livelihoods include disputes over land tenure, conflict between different levels of government, illegal logging practices and harvesting of NTFPs and competition over land for natural versus plantation forests. As a result, forest degradation and rural poverty continue to be debilitating obstacles to development in Central Vietnam that must be addressed if sustainable livelihoods are achieved. Forestry-based livelihoods are one of many strategies being promoted by the Vietnamese government to combat environmental degradation and rural poverty.

The goal of this research is to investigate why Acacia trees are being grown by upland villagers in Central Vietnam, what benefits and challenges are associated with growing tree crops, and how land tenure and access rights can be strengthened to improve the livelihoods of rural villagers. I explore these issues by utilizing a commodity chain framework to examine the increasingly widespread planting of Acacia, a tree crop to which many villagers are turning as a primary source of income. A timber commodity chain is used to examine how timber is extracted from villages, transported and processed at sawmills, then brought to urban centres to be sold as finished products. The commodity chain analysis is used to analyze the processes and cossts associated with planting the tree crop and the market opportunities derived from the crop at different stages in the commodity chain.

Primary data collection methods include a villager livelihood questionnaire conducted with 58 hourseholds in mid-2008; 34 additional key informant semi-structured interviews with middlemen, processors, retailers, government officials, and other stakeholders invoolved in Acacia cultivation; participant observation; and other visually-based participatory research methods such as transect walks.

Results from the study prove that within Central Vietnam most rural upland villagers do not have secure land tenure, yet they grow Acacia trees as part of their long-term livelihood strategies for a variety of benefits, apart from earning income. These benefits include maintaining soil integrity, using tree logs as building materials, and harvesting NTFPs. Furthermore, the flow of Acacia products through the commodity chain is unregulated and subject to erratic price fluctuations. Nevertheless, Acacia cultivation is enticing to rural villagers and many are willing to cease growing staple foods and devote their lands to commercial forestry because of the potential profits and additional benefits listed above that the Acacia tree crops provide. The study highlights the importance of forestry resources to rural upland villagers within the last two decades and outlines the processes and challenges that occur at each stage in the Acacia commodity chain.

Convocation Year