In many developing countries there is a prevailing conflict between biodiversity conservation and the need for poverty alleviation. One possible solution for solving that conflict is to find ways that help poor people directly benefit from conservation activities. This approach has been tested in a wetland conservation project in Phu My village, Kien Luong District, Kien Giang Province in Vietnam. The 2,000-hectare seasonally inundated grassland, dominated by the sedge Lepironia articulata (Cyperaceae), in Phu My Village is the last of its kind remaining in the Mekong Delta. In November 2004, a new model of protected area was therefore established. Unlike other protected areas in Vietnam where resource exploitation is prohibited, this is an “open” protected area in the sense that the local Khmer ethnic minority people are still allowed to harvest Lepironia as they have been doing for hundreds of years. The project provides local people with skills training and production equipment so that they can make fine handicrafts from the Lepironia they harvest. The project also helps with marketing handicraft products to higher profitable export markets. After three years of operating, the daily income of people who participated was on average twice as much as it was before the project began. The unique remnant wetland is protected, which would otherwise have been turned into a rice cultivation area according to the previous land use planning of Kien Giang Province.

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