The main objectives of the project are to establish economically and environmentally sustainable agarwood production, to prevent extinction of forest trees, to support socio-economic development by supplementing the income of rural populations, and to build an agro-forestry development model that is sustainable and can be applied worldwide.
In particular, the objectives of this project in Viet Nam are to plant Aquilaria crassna trees and provide protection for this endangered species, find the best method to optimize resin production in plantation-grown trees, and assist the population and authorities to accomplish future independent and profitable Agarwood production. The successful implementation of this project will yield not only directly benefit project participants and the Agarwood market, but also will be a showcase for other projects. Nature conservation can only be truly successful when local’s inhabitant is closely involved in the planning and implementation of such projects. This can alone be done when conservation efforts are combined with socio-economic development. One of the most important objectives of this project is to present a model and a methodology for similar efforts.
Research and experiments are and will be conducted to select the best and most efficient treatment to induce Agarwood formation at plantations. Chemical research and analyses is focusing on quality assessment, control and verification. Techniques, tools and inducement compounds are developed to be applied on a large scale.
- Cultivate seedlings in nurseries: As has been identified during the previous pilot project, the availability of sufficient amount of high quality seedlings remains a problem for some time to come, caused by the disappearance of most seed-producing mother trees the lack of well organized production facilities and expertise. The institution of nurseries at all sites will provide an ample supply of high quality seedlings and cuttings. Trees will be planted during the entire duration of the project, thus growing a supply of Aquilaria trees needed to produce Agarwood during and after its conclusion.
- Planting of trees: At least 400 hectares will be planted throughout project areas in Southern and Central Viet Nam. Home-gardens, small plantations and forestry service plantations will be involved in this effort. Other cash crops will be intercropped with trees improving diversity, which will help offset plant disease and provide income during the first years of tree growth.
- Training and technical assistance: Training sessions will be conducted for both community level participants and provincial counterparts. Simple inducement techniques and tools will be developed and made available. Processing techniques, post harvest treatments, and product manufacturing will be demonstrated on a try-out scale. Scientists will receive internationally credited university training. Laboratory equipment installed at The University of Ho Chi Minh City and the Kon Tum Science, Technology and Environment service will allow for training to be conducted in Viet Nam. Furthermore, these lab facilities will provide for ongoing quality control and independent manufacturing of inducement compounds and storage and handling of fungi needed for these compounds.
- Monitoring of plantations: The project continues monitoring the previous TRP-pilot project plantations in Nui Giai mountain (An Giang) and monitor resin production from these earlier planted trees. These trees have grown to sufficient size to be treated and produce resin in 2002.
- Marketing, product examination and innovation: Resin from the trees will be test-marketed both in whole and in distilled oil form. In addition, TRP will conduct further research into new Agarwood-based products, and improved post-harvest handling and processing procedures.
- Taxonomy studies and distribution surveys: Surveys covering both biological issues and socio-economic situation will be conducted in project areas. These will support Aquilaria conservation and close participation of local inhabitants, taking into account their wishes, input and distinct culture. Maps will be produced as part of these surveys.
A successful method of inducing resin formation in young plantation grown trees has been developed and the process is continually being refined and optimized with ongoing research with wood microbiologist Robert Blanchette at the University of Minnesota.
An over-exploited forest resource will be turned into a long-term sustainable product that can be easily grown by poor farmers in remote areas. Small agarwood home-gardens and larger size plantations by farmers and provincial forestry enterprises will be cultivated. Processing capacity and end-product manufacturing skills will benefit product development and ultimately commercialization. Income generation as well as foreign currency earnings will support farmers and state. Through the project, plantation-based agarwood products will become available on the world market. An example of true co-management of an endangered natural resource resulting in sustainable production will be the end result of the project.
Destructive and unsustainable harvesting has lead to endangering Aquilaria throughout its range, resulting in calls for strict trade controls and outright bans. In consultation with IUCN and TRAFFIC, the project supports Aquilaria conservation. By offering the first real alternative to forest-based exploitation of agarwood, legislation, active protection, and actual conservation can be realized. Future legislation will increase demand for the plantation-based agarwood, and several areas holding natural stands of Aquilaria in Viet Nam will receive better protection.
The creation of agarwood supplies in Viet Nam will serve as a model for applied science stimulating socio-economic development through agro-forestry. Close collaboration of top-level scientists and their research with hands-on local level economic development, supported by technology transfer and training will be demonstrated. An endangered species will be preserved by cultivation at plantations, innovative marketing and commercialization. Creating Agarwood supplies in Viet Nam will present a model of natural forest resource co-management, and as such will be globally relevant. Specifically, this model can serve as an example for the entire Southeast Asian agarwood industry. It will make international restrictions on harvesting and trade regarding forest-based Agarwood feasible, as the project results offer a real alternative, which so far has not been available.