Timber growers in Vietnam achieving better outcomes through co-operation

Binh Minh Agroforestry Cooperative received development support through an inter-agency programme

A forestry co-op in the Yen Bai Province of northern Vietnam is bringing wealth and jobs to their local community following capacity-building support from the Forest and Farm Facility (FFF), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has reported.

A group of 18 farmers in Lem Village formed the Binh Minh Agroforestry Cooperative in 2017 after receiving training through FFF in market analysis, proposal writing and organisational management, as well as opportunities to learn more about wood processing and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood. 

The co-op’s predecessor, Lem Village acacia growers’ collective, only met informally and irregularly, and the sale of timber was done on an individual basis, leaving farmers unable to negotiate higher prices. The formation of the co-op allowed the farmer to collectively acquire land, set up a workshop and sign FSC timber supply contracts with companies.

The incorporated co-op now holds 60 hectares of FSC-certified plantation forest and a chain of custody-certified sawmills with a monthly capacity of 700 cubic metres of processed timber. BMAC’s main product, acacia logs, is sold to customers including an IKEA timber supplier. 

The FFF also supported the co-op in connecting with companies, investors and markets, which the IUCN cites as the most important outcome that the scheme has brought to BMAC, saying that “without an economic benefit, it would have been extremely hard to persuade people to work together”.

BMAC made a profit of VND147.85m (£4,700) in 2020, creating a 15-35 local jobs with daily wages from VND230,000 – 270,000 VND (£7.50 to £8.80), higher than the local average. The co-op also promotes environmentally conscious activity through legal timber sourcing and reducing herbicide use, pollution and littering.

FFF is a partnership between the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Union for Conservation of Nature(IUCN), the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and Agricord, a global alliance of agri-agencies, mandated by farmers’ organisations. The initiative is overseen in Vietnam by the Viet Nam Farmers’ Union which supports forest and farmer producer organisations (FFPO) in discussions with key stakeholders at a commune, district and provincial level.

IUCN said the experience of BMAC holds lessons for other FFPOs.

“BMAC demonstrates that external actors in the value chain play important roles in providing market incentives, policy support, and capacity building to FFPOs,” it added. “External assistance is vital for encouraging farmers to work together to do business, helping them understand the benefits of collective action, and facilitating the operation of the FFPO.” 

IUCN cited a global review of FFPOs which shows that 77% of FFPOs were established with outside support from government programmes, NGOs or business partners, adding: “Organising smallholders into FFPOs is a key step in commercialising their wood products. When farmers form FFPOs, they benefit from economies of scale, increased bargaining power, reduced transaction costs, better market access, and a joint voice to influence policy.”

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