Na Hau commune is located in the core area of the Na Hau Nature Reserve in Van Yen district, Yen Bai province. This is a long-standing habitat of the Mong ethnic group. Although life there is difficult, generations of local Mong people have protected the forests.
Part of the forest god worshiping ritual has been turned into Na Hau Forest New Year Festival of the Mong ethnic people in Na Hau.
Na Hau Nature Reserve is spread out over four communes – Na Hau, Dai Son, Mo Vang, and Phong Du Thuong – and covering over 16,000ha. It has a rich natural ecosystem with many rare species of plants including fokienia hodginsii and dipterocarp.
Na Hau commune’s 4,500 hectares of special-use forest is home to 460 Mong ethnic households. To protect the forests, the locals have set regulations on forest protection which are respected by the community. One of the rules is to practice forest worship.
This practice has been turned into the annual Na Hau Forest New Year Festival held at the beginning of spring, with rituals like giving offerings to the forest god and praying to the forest god for favourable weather, abundant crops, good health, and happiness.
Sung A Xa, a resident of Ban Tat hamlet in Na Hau commune, said that the Mong custom of worshiping the forest god has been followed for a long time.
“Every year a shaman places amulets in the middle of the forest to protect the water source. If anyone deliberately violates or clears the forest, or cuts down big trees, that person will get sick,” said A Xa.
Pursuant to local customs and beliefs of respecting and protecting the forest, and considering it the shared home of the community, each hamlet in Na Hau occupies an area in a beautiful location, with different kinds of perennials and rare trees.
According to Sung A Chua of Na Hau commune, “Through the forest worshiping ceremony, our grandparents and parents want to encourage us to take good care of and protect the forest and prevent erosion and landslides by not cutting down the forest.”
Na Hau forest
The Van Yen Forest Management Board, the Management Board of Na Hau Nature Reserve, and the commune authorities have contracted with local communities to manage and protect 3,700 hectares of special-use natural forests. Community teams in charge of forest fire prevention have been established and communications and education have been strengthened.
Vu Minh Phuc, Head of the Van Yen Forest Management Board, said that they have designated communities and people to be the main agents of forest management and protection.
“They are the eyes and the arms of the forest rangers in detecting and promptly handling violations. In the past years and in the future, we’ll continue to organize dialogues with communities and listen to public opinion to build appropriate programs to protect the existing forest area and minimize violations,” said Phuc.
Joint efforts by the local community and administration to preserve the forest have kept Na Hau Nature Reserve green over the years, improved the lives of the locals, and made the area a draw for tourists.