First MSc thesis within the FLOURISH project completed

Hi everyone. I am Ta Quoc Truong – a now-former Master student in Tropical Forestry at TU Dresden. In this summer semester, I conducted my research on lung bamboo (Bambusa longissima sp.nov) – an endemic bamboo species in my country – Vietnam. My research took place within the FLOURISH project.

Muong Hinh village landscape with degraded bamboo stands in the background, ©Ta Quoc Truong

Lung bamboo is a clump-type bamboo species that can be found in parts of Vietnam. Due to its natural abundance and wide distribution in Que Phong, a mountainous district in North-Central Vietnam, the area is also called “the kingdom of lung bamboo”. Lung bamboo is considered one of the most important natural resources in this region and many local communities are economically dependent on it to sustain their livelihoods. Despite its socio-economic importance, very little is scientifically documented on lung bamboo, and those few existing studies focus on botanical and ecological aspects.

Traditional bamboo harvesting by a villager, ©Ta Quoc Truong

Alternative livelihood options beyond the forest are lacking in the region, and so the extraordinary livelihood dependency on Lung has resulted in overexploitation and unmanaged harvesting practice. Hence, natural lung bamboo resources are degrading rapidly in quantity and quality. Thus, there is an urgent need for assessing the current situation and draft a sustainable bamboo forest management strategy for the long-term development of the local communities as well as maintaining this vital resource. In response to this need, I carried out my Master thesis on “Assessing the lung bamboo (Bambusa longissima sp.nov) resources and developing a sustainable bamboo management strategy for Muong Hinh community in Que Phong district, Nghe An province, North-Central Vietnam”. My supervisors were Prof. Dr. Gerald Kapp from TU Dresden and Assoc. Prof. Dr. Bui The Doi from Vietnam National University of Forestry with scientific supports of Dr. Simon Benedikter (TU Dresden).

Interviewing a bamboo user household in Muong Hinh village, ©Ta Quoc Truong

I did my field research in Muong Hinh village, where lung bamboo harvesting is pivotal to people’s livelihood strategy. From March to June 2019, I conducted a survey with households engaged in lung bamboo harvesting in conjunction with a bamboo forest inventory to understand the livelihood impacts on the surrounding bamboo forests. I particularly focused on the harvesting practice, people’s knowledge and awareness and institutional arrangements. Staying for more than 2 months in this remote area provided me the opportunity to conduct focus group discussions, many key informant interviews and to gain valuable insight through participatory observations. Based on a holistic situational analysis, my thesis comes up with a range of recommendations for developing a sustainable bamboo management strategy for the village and beyond.

Thai community celebration with traditional earth-wine drinking ceremony, ©Ta Quoc Truong

The research area is a remote mountainous region bordering with Lao DRC. Therefore, there were many unforeseeable challenges during the data collection process such as the unusual extreme weather (hot wind with 43ºC in the first-haft and continuous heavy rain in the second half). Doing household interviews during the rice harvesting season also turned out as a challenge, as the respondents only had time in the early morning or late evening. Working with ethnic minority people required intercultural competence and was an enriching experience for me. With the support of a local village leader and some local forest rangers, I was able to overcome many of these difficulties and the amount of gathered data was even more than I expected. The entire stay was an unforgettable memory with very kind people who were willing to share their house, their food and spent their precious time to answer my questions. I’m very grateful for the many chances I had to participate in their traditional activities such as communities meeting or cultural events.

As a happy ending, I successfully defended my Master thesis on November 26th, 2019. It was a fabulous start for my future career. Finally, I would like to thank my family, my supervisors, DAAD, the FLOURISH project, TU Dresden, all friends and colleagues from Tharandt as well as Que Phong district for supporting me throughout my Master’s course.

 

Successful MSc defense at TU Dresden, ©Ta Quoc Truong

 

By Ta Quoc Truong

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