|Chiu Chan Ly (C) knows every tree in Na Hac forest like the back of his hand. (Photo: VOV)
It’s a challenge to get to Na Hac, especially on rainy days. First, we drive 15km on motorbikes from the communal center, then we walk along a narrow forest path, crossing 5 streams to reach the hamlet.
56-year-old Chiu Chan Ly lives in a house right at the entrance of the forest. He said he has lived here for more than 40 years and he knows every tree and rock like the back of his hand.
“There are valuable teak and apricot trees. Last year some people came and tried to give me money but I didn't take it. When they went into the forest to cut trees, I immediately called the authorities, so they left.”
Chiu Van Chan cultivates a 1,300 sq.m. wet rice field. He said there are many varieties of precious wood and birds in the forest. No one is allowed to hunt or cut trees. They can only pick mushrooms and some types of medicinal herbs.
“No one is allowed to damage the forest. Whoever harms the forest is condemned by all the villagers. The village chief reminds us that this is a protected forest, not to be destroyed or cut down,” Chan said.
|Ca Nhay stream in Na Hac forest. (Photo: VOV)
In 2015 the State built several concrete bridges over the streams to make it easier to get to the hamlet. But his has made it more difficult to protect the forest. The villagers say strangers often come to bribe them to allow them to enter the forest to illegally cut timber. But the villagers always refuse.
In the past whenever they had distinguished guests, they went to Ca Nhay spring in the forest to catch fish for the guests. When the wild fish population began to decrease, they stopped fishing to protect local biodiversity.
La Van Vi, Vice Chairman of Ha Lau commune’s People’s Committee, said, “The villagers are the beneficiaries and the managers of the forest. They help us protect the forest and inform us of strangers illegally cutting trees.”
Hoang Van Khanh, head of the Forest Protection Department of Tien Yen district, said that the forest protection force includes forest rangers, police, and commune officials. But the Na Hac villagers are the real guardians of the forest.
“We have 11 officials to guard hundreds of ha of forest. It’s difficult to cover such a large area. We assign two cadres to patrol Ha Lau commune. When the villagers see strangers entering the forest, they immediately inform us.”
The Dao of Na Hac hamlet live in harmony with nature and would never think of exploiting trees in the primary forest.