With a history of over 60 years, Viet Nam’s National University of Forestry (VNUF) has been the leading institution providing education and research for Viet Nam’s forestry sector. Following a fruitful collaboration with the UN-REDD Viet Nam Phase II Programme, and the success of two REDD+ Academy courses piloted in VNUF’s Master programs in 2016, in March 2017 the University has officially decided to include REDD+ as an elective course for two of its Master programs. Among VNUF’s planned activities for 2017 are also the establishment of a specialized study centre on climate change and REDD+, as well as creating a network of universities to share experiences on integrating climate change and REDD+ knowledge into universities’ curricula. Through this collaboration with VNUF, UN-REDD Viet Nam is a pioneer in taking action in line with United Nations Environment Assembly’s (UNEA) resolution entitled “Investing in human capacity for sustainable development through environmental education and training”, adopted in May 2016.
Viet Nam embraced the REDD+ Academy and its comprehensive capacity development opportunity from the initial phase when the initiative was launched in 2014 with the aim to support countries deliver REDD+ on the ground. After participating at the first regional REDD+ Academy training for Asia-Pacific, Viet Nam was the first UN-REDD country to host a national REDD+ Academy session in September 2015.
Building on these experiences – which helped the country raise awareness and build capacities at national and sub-national levels to implement REDD+, Viet Nam is now taking the lead on integrating climate change and REDD+ knowledge into universities’ curricula. Based on a close collaboration between Viet Nam’s National University of Forestry (VNUF) and the UN-REDD Viet Nam Phase II Programme, the University adopted the REDD+ Academy and its training materials, adapting them into elective courses, which were initially piloted under two of VNUF’s Master programs. Two batches of training were thus organized in 2016 at the University, one for the Forestry Master programme in October, and another one for Forest Resources Management in December. A total of 44 Master students attended in-class teaching and a field visit.
A survey conducted with students who attended the pilot REDD+ Master courses showed students’ satisfaction with what they found as real value-added, practical knowledge. Mr. Nguyen Trong Hieu, speaking as representative of one of the Master classes at its closing session, said that “This was the first-ever training course in the whole Master program in which students had the chance to meet and interact with so many lecturers, practitioners, policy makers, and be exposed to demonstrations through field visits.”Mr. Hieu – who is now working for the Sub-institute of Forest Inventory and Planning of the North-Eastern Region of Viet Nam – stressed the importance of these interactions and the valuable knowledge he and his classmates acquired by attending the REDD+ course.
As a result of the success of the pilot REDD+ courses, the University Board convened in March 2017 and decided to officially include REDD+ as an elective (optional, more specialized course) for the two Master programs. In addition, the University intends to extend the reach of the REDD+ course by including it as a subject of its International Tropical Forestry Master Program, which is currently supported by German Academic Exchange Services (DAAD) and involves students from seven countries in the region.
During the Board meeting, Prof. Bui The Doi, VNUF Vice-President, expressed satisfaction with the fruitful collaboration with the UN-REDD Programme in integrating climate change and REDD+ knowledge into VNUF’s training programs through the adaptation of the REDD+ Academy materials. “By offering the REDD+ course, the University can help meet the ‘real needs’ of skilled and trained professionals, equipping them with REDD+ and climate change knowledge”, he noted. “Master students will mostly be working for national and sub-national forest-related institutions; targeting those students can help narrow the capacity gap and support REDD+ implementation in the country”, he added.
The UN-REDD Programme will continue the collaboration with VNUF and other universities to facilitate the integration of REDD+ and climate change knowledge in the training curricula, thus promoting a wider understanding and actions to address climate change and contribute to REDD+ implementation in the country. Among the proposed activities for 2017-2018 are the establishment of a specialized study centre on climate change and REDD+ at the VNUF to support lecturers and researchers, as well as creating a network of universities to share experiences on integrating climate change and REDD+ knowledge into universities’ curricula.