Consumer sovereignty in the framework of social justice, economic equality and environmental balance, within and across borders

Natural forest sacrificed for profitable cassava crop

June 12, 2014

KON TUM — Cassava plantations are helping reduce poverty in the Central Highlands province of Kon Tum.

However, natural forests are being chopped down to make way for the highly profitable crops.

In Dak Ro Wa Commune in Kon Tum City, 400ha of 2,000ha of forest has already disappeared.

With incomes of VND20 million (US$950) per hectare, the tubers have improved living standards for many households, said Phan Thanh Nam, chairman of the Dak Ro Wa People’s Committee.

Cassava farms have made serious encroachments in Sa Son, Sa Nhon and Mo Rai communes in Sa Thay District, which are next to Chu Mom Ray National Park.

Y Tuyn, a Sa Son resident, said residents preferred cassava because it was easy to grow and was a prolific producer.

She said rice had low productivity and could be swept away by heavy rain.

Mai Nhat Van, deputy director of the Chu Mom Ray National Park’s Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Centre, admitted to Lao dong (Labour) newspaper that measures to stop encroachment on forests were ineffective.

A total of 28,000ha of cassava was planted in the province last year, but this has now swollen to 34,000ha.

Several processing plants have been built in Kon Tum to process cassava.

Phuong Hoa Cassava Starch Processing Plant in Dak Glei District produces 25,000 tonnes a year. It works for six months a year and buys tubers for about VND2,000 (US$0.095) per kilogram.

Nguyen Van Hai, head of the Dak Glei District Forest Management Unit said that the district set up several forest protection stations, but could not control the issue.

Local authorities have prosecuted dozens of people for cutting down trees since 2010, but nothing has changed.

Tran Viet Cuong, deputy head of the Administration and Planning Division of the provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said local authorities were forced to let residents plant cassava because it thrived in the rough terrain.

Plantations required little capital and were known as poverty reduction crops for ethnic minorities, he said.