The study focuses on analyses of major development problems related to livelihood and natural resource management in the Northern Uplands of Vietnam (NUV). The study was conducted in Suoi Con, a small agro-forestry watershed with the total area is about 1760 ha. The watershed is characterized by a high poverty rate and low agricultural production and household income. Livelihood of the households is dependent upon self-sufficient agricultural production, which accounts for nearly 80% of the total production value. Traditional agricultural activities have led to various land degradation problems.
The main objective of the study is to integrate modeling of (i) erosion assessment, (ii) land use optimization and (iii) land use decision making in order to improve the effectiveness and adoption of recommendations that contribute to the improved livelihood of farmers and sustainable natural resource management. This will be achieved through: (1) increasing understanding of the interactions between agro-ecological and socio-economic dynamics at watershed scale; (2) facilitating emergence of a common agreement on ecological sustainability, social equity and economically sound solutions; and (3) stimulating dialogues among various stakeholders to achieve a shared responsibility of the common resources.
The biophysical and socioeconomic characteristics of the study area were explored through surveys, FAO’s land evaluation, literature review and stakeholder meetings. The Predict and Localize Erosion and Runoff (PLER) model and the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE) were used to examine influences of land use on soil erosion at the watershed scale.Although agricultural land in the watershed has several limitations such as steep slopes, low soil fertility, high acidity and serious soil erosion, different soil types and the large variation topography and crop suitability create flexibility in farmers’ land use decisions. The Land Use Planning and Analysis System (LUPAS) was then applied to analyze feasibilities of alternative land use options. Based on land use scenarios, 4 main land use constraints in the regions were analyzed. Results of the analysis were finally discussed with stakeholders though Role Playing Game sections to find feasible land use solution and to develop policy recommendations.
Results of the study showed that different actors in the watershed have different views on land use targets, objectives, constraints and decisions. The integrated modeling approach used in this study identified that traditional technology level appears to be a largest constraint that significantly holds back agricultural production of the region. Land area, capital and labour are also constraints but they only appear if agricultural technology is improved. Land fragmentation should be considered as an important factor because without any new agricultural technique, crop variety or external capital, land consolidation can significantly improve food production and income.
Integration of individual tools described in this study represents a participatory approach for land use planning, in which problems in land use are explicitly defined and land use plans are developed and revised by stakeholders under their own social and economic conditions. Imperfections in given land use plans and possible solutions proposed by stakeholders provide policy makers with ideas to improve land use planning and to bridge the gaps between land use objectives of the government and of farmers.
The integrated modelling approach developed and presented in this thesis can make use of individual research tools for describing agro-ecological and socio-economic dynamics and for developing land use policy. It has the potential to serve planners and policy makers to increase the likelihood of developing plans that will effectively increase farmer livelihood and improve resource conservation. This integrated modelling approach can incorporate different aspects of land use into land use planning and test hypotheses regarding the contributions of intended plans to general development targets. Furthermore, it can support bottom-up land use planning as it allows incorporation of different stakeholders in analysing existing problems, proposing solutions and developing land use plans. Therefore, it can increase the likelihood of adoption. This in turn will create the chances for achievement of targets of the government, researchers and farmers through effective implementation of the plans.