Jeep stuck in mud, Vietnam

Pulling for Forests in Vietnam

How e-payments make life easier for community-based forest owners
By Jennifer Norfolk
The wheels are spinning, but the vehicle is going nowhere. It’s rainy season in Vietnam, and dirt roads have become rivers of mud. It’s not uncommon for a vehicle to become mired in the muck. But in this case, the vehicle holds much-needed funds that won’t be delivered to community-based forest owners unless a team of determined forest fund staff rescues it. It’s a sticky situation — but one that may not happen much longer.
Changes in Vietnam’s innovative Payments for Forest Ecosystem Services (PFES) system, implemented by Winrock’s Vietnam Forests and Deltas project, will soon make life much easier for the community-based forest owners who are paid through this program.
Most PFES payments originate from hydroelectric plants and other downstream users of environmental services who need to know they will have a steady stream of low-silt water at their disposal. The Government of Vietnam determined that it’s a better investment to pay for good forest cover proactively rather than dredging reservoirs on a regular basis if the forest is not maintained.


E-payment training

“As Forest Protection Department Fund officers, we are also happy, as we are no longer worried about losing money or taking months to complete the payment process,” Long says.

Users pay mandated fees to the Vietnam Forest Fund (VNFF), which distributes these funds to the provincial authorities for further distribution to community-based forest owners. However, to actually get these funds into the hands of people caring for the forests has been a real hardship. Often, members of the provincial-level staff have to ferry bags of cash to remote mountain communities on dirt roads — a costly and inefficient method that is dangerous for everyone involved, especially during the rainy season.
Winrock has been working with VNFF and their provincial funds to find an effective way to transfer this money electronically. Through several pilot initiatives in Lam Dong and Son La provinces, the Vietnam Forests and Deltas project has helped make this arduous task as simple as a few mouse clicks. This means that Nguyen Thanh Long, deputy head of Cat Tien National Park Forest Protection Department in Lam Dong province, can now pull up the data for those requiring payment and transfer funds through an e-payment system managed by Viettel, a Vietnamese telecom provider.


E-payment training session
A training session on e-payments.

E-payments are a new way of doing business for members of the community. Most have traditionally engaged in cash transactions, so Winrock’s training on how to do e-payments is crucial. Once over the learning curve, though, people are certainly seeing the benefits of quicker transactions, more transparency in the transfers (both with the government and within the household), and additional access to financial services.

“Local people were very happy when receiving the payment through Viettel Pay before Tet holiday because they received the money much more quickly and were ready for Tet,” Long says. In addition, Viettel e-payment subscribers can access a range of banking services such as savings accounts.
Winrock’s partnership with Viettel and VNFF is making Vietnam’s pioneering PFES system more efficient and transparent. The rains will still fall, the roads will still flood. But with easy and predictable transactions, all parties will have more trust in a system that is currently creating $125 million per year for forest conservation.This blog was originally published by Winrock International
The USAID Vietnam Forests and Deltas program (VFD), implemented by Winrock International, is supporting the Government of Vietnam’s efforts to better manage natural resources through an innovative Payment for Forest Environmental Services (PFES) program, which pays forest owners for conservation that improves watersheds and biodiversity and sequesters carbon. Healthy forest ecosystems mitigate climate change by transforming the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide into oxygen. Vietnam’s forests also protect water quality by preventing erosion, reducing and limiting the impact of landslides, reducing floods, and acting as a protective buffer during extreme weather.
Strategic Objective
Adaptation, Ecosystem-based Adaptation, Forestry, Land Use, Natural Resource Management, Resilience, Sustainable Landscapes
Jennifer Norfolk headshot

Jennifer Norfolk

Jennifer Norfolk, Associate Director in the Forestry and Natural Resource Management Unit, leads Winrock’s Forestry and Natural Resource Management team, supervising projects in Senegal, Vietnam, China and Indonesia. She is an international development professional with extensive experience in sustainable natural resource management, resilience and community development. She has had direct leadership of several $20+ million natural resource management projects. Norfolk led the proposal efforts for the successful Senegal Fisheries, Biodiversity and Livelihoods project and the Ghana Agriculture and Natural Resource Management project. Prior to Winrock,. she designed Counterpart International’s Blue Carbon Initiative resulting in it being featured at UNFCCC side events in Doha and Warsaw, as well as publication in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Norfolk has extensive experience with donor relationship management, particularly with USAID, USDOL and USDA, as well as four different foundations, and excels at bringing stakeholders together to design solutions to sustainability challenges. She has local work experience in Bolivia, Cyprus, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guatemala, Haiti, Indonesia, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Paraguay, Senegal, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Tajikistan, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Uzbekistan and Vietnam. She holds an M.A. in international policy and development from Georgetown and a B.A. in political science from the University of Michigan.

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