GreenViet, BaNa Nature Reserve, Hoa Bac Commune, My An Park
Our work in Vietnam focuses on urban forests in DaNang, Hanoi, and Ho Chi Minh City. Degraded urban forests are critical to restore to invite public participation, provide green spaces for positive human-culture interaction, and to promote a growing country-wide conservation ethos. The diverse tropical forests of Vietnam were nearly entirely defoliated during the Vietnam War by agent orange, a defoliating chemical that is lethal to plants. As a result, millions of hectares of forests were converted to acacia plantations. Native trees are largely absent. However, in the city of Hanoi, many native trees were spared and they are celebrated in local Buddhist shrines as well as focal points in growing Plein-Air Painting and Urban Sketching. In order for the diverse country-side to be reforested with native trees, the conservation ethos will need to radiate from urban centers. Rural forests are managed mostly by federal government and private/community forest management is rare as most rural people were forcibly displaced by the government.
A complex social miasma exists in Vietnam, with a provincial longing for the countryside evident in urban people, but lack of ease in production and livelihood generation after years of displacement. However, people maintain strong ties to nature and value it highly. Home gardens are typical in urban areas and fresh greens are prerequisite with meals.
We are creating urban forests and converting acacia plantations into native forests. We are working with the global EcoKids program and Universities in DaNang to foster an ecocultural restoration approach to reforesting 55 hectares with 84,000 trees. This program includes environmental education for K-12 students, and the development of a restoration field school with DaNang University. Students will participate in site assessment, project implementation, and project monitoring. Students will interact with community artists – the Urban Sketchers – to design an exhibit that will be featured in local venues. The story of this ecocultural restoration project will be shared internationally through the network of schools involved in EcoKids (currently in Vietnam, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Indonesia, and USA).