Hanoi, Viet Nam, January 2017 — the Viet Nam Administration of Forestry (VNFOREST), TRAFFIC, WWF-Vietnam and the Center for People and Forests (RECOFTC) have launched a joint project under the “Responsible Asia Forestry & Trade” (RAFT) Partnership to focus on sustainable forest management, supporting Viet Nam to strengthen its implementation of legal and responsible timber trade.

The project will help Viet Nam’s burgeoning timber enterprises to boost their capacity to classify and identify legal timber for export to overseas markets.

Major export markets are increasingly requiring timber-producing countries to prove the legal origin of exported timber in a move to combat the flow of illegally harvested timber.

For example, the European Union (EU) developed the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan, under which exporting nations enter into Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) with the EU. Similar legislation to prevent illegal timber entering the marketplace already exists in Australia and the US.

Mr Le Van Bach, Director of The Forest Production Management Department, Viet Nam Administration of Forestry, said: “Viet Nam is at the final stage of signing a Voluntary Partnership Agreement with the EU—building capacity on legal timber and responsible trade is essential.”

The project is divided into two main components: promoting sustainable plantation management based on international standards and strengthening the implementation of responsible and legal timber trade. It also aims to create basic awareness about timber legality processes amongst manufacturers and businesses.

Initially, this will help create a market for responsible timber products in Viet Nam and bring benefits to the environment and society. It will also help combat illegal trade of timber, improve investment into the protection of Viet Nam’s natural environment and enhance the reputation of the Vietnamese market.

The Viet Nam Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has set a target that at least 500,000 hectares of forests have been certified by 2020. Currently only 135,858 hectares are certified.

To help achieve this ambition, the project will identify forest areas that have the potential for certification, develop a forest-owner manual on plantation forest certification and sustainable forest management and support reviews of the State policy on promoting sustainable forest management.

“RECOFTC will make recommendations to help VNFOREST develop or revise at least one important policy to promote sustainable forest management,” said Mr Luong Quang Hung, a representative of RECOFTC Viet Nam.

“This project joins together the Vietnamese authorities and the international NGO community in efforts towards ensuring a more sustainable trade of timber and halting the illegal timber trade—such co-operation is important to establish sustained action for controlled export of Vietnamese timber,” said Ms Madelon Willemsen, Head of TRAFFIC’s Viet Nam Office.

“The timber trade is a signficant part of the international economy and Viet Nam’s role is critical to ensure that resources are sourced via legal and sustainable means.”