Global efforts to combat climate change has led to the establishment of the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation program (REDD+). This study concerns the implementation of REDD+ among local landscapes and communities in Vietnam. How do affected forest-dependent households perceive their roles in sustainable forest management and REDD+ and how do these perceptions and attitudes influence the (potential) socio-ecological performance of REDD+? Two communes consisting of forest-dependent and indigenous communities in Central Vietnam were selected for this study–the former involved in the UN-REDD program and the latter involved in a REDD+ program of Fauna and Flora International (FFI). Here, we differentiated between a ‘do no harm’ and pro-carbon (UN-REDD), and pro-poor (FFI-REDD+) approach to REDD+. Employing an applied socio-ecological systems framework, we conducted household surveys (n = 102) and we adopted qualitative research methods. This study identified the importance of traditional ecological knowledge systems in sustainable forest management. While pro-poor REDD+ was more inclusive, both REDD+ programs in our study were implemented in a top down manner. Lastly, households’ attitudes and perceptions towards rulemaking, sanctioning, monitoring, cultural capital (beliefs and worldviews) and forest protection technology were identified as (potential) local drivers for successful REDD+ implementation in both communes.
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