The Causes of the Reforestation in Vietnam

The Causes of the Reforestation in Vietnam


Wood exploitation and agricultural expansion led to large-scale deforestation in Vietnam.  Since the mid-1990s, forest cover in many areas has increased both in the form of natural regeneration and tree plantations. Policies such as the 1993 Land Law offered households rights to forestland and tree planting campaigns such as the Five Million Hectare Reforestation Programme made people responsible for owning and protecting forest land.

Research Goals & Methods

For this study, the authors assembled land-cover data into Geographic Information System (GIS) files to evaluate the changes in agricultural land and forestland between 1993 and 2002.

Conclusions & Takeaways

They find that natural forest regeneration (increase of 6% of the total country area) occurred in the northern and central coastal mountains on areas with low-suitability for agriculture and far from urban centers. Tree plantations (increase of 5.19% of the total country area) were scattered throughout the country, but concentrated in the midlands and along the coasts where there is greater access to roads. Meanwhile, unlike in other countries where forest regrowth is linked to urbanization and agricultural abandonment, Vietnam did not exhibit a loss in agricultural production. To the contrary, policy reforms in the 1990s also lead to the intensification of rice cultivation and other types of agricultural production. The authors suggest that smallholders increased the intensity and input of labor on the land most suitable for agriculture, while seeking forest regrowth and expansion of forest products on other parts of their land. In other countries with less land rights, the land not used for agriculture by one smallholder would likely be colonized by another. Unlike typical paths predicted by the forest transition theory, the authors propose an alternative pathway to describe Vietnam's transition in which policies to alleviate food scarcity can actually result in forest regrowth.



Meyfroidt P, Lambin EF. The causes of the reforestation in Vietnam. Land Use Policy. 2008;25:182–197. doi:10.1016/j.landusepol.2007.06.001.


  • Department of Geography, University of Louvain, Louvain-La-Neuve, Belgium