In 2010, the Vietnamese government initiated the Payment for Forest Environmental Services (PFES) program to conserve forests and improve local livelihoods. While some researches have demonstrated the effectiveness of PFES, other studies reported inappropriate implementation and distribution at the initial stage. This study aimed to examine how PFES was implemented, and explore the challenges of forest protection efforts faced by the local people under PFES. Thua Thien Hue province was the first province to adjust the distribution of payments according to the type and quality of the forest using the K-coefficient. We conducted in-depth interviews with relevant staff and officials and organized focus group discussions with local people in seven payment areas in the province. The findings showed that the K-coefficient applied in this study was composed of four elements: forest condition (K1), forest function (K2), forest origin (K3), and the difficulty of forest protection (K4). However, forest condition (K1) was the only factor that could increase the efforts of the local people toward forest conservation. The capacity of the staff played an essential role in PFES distribution for local people. Additionally, establishing the relevant institutions and encouraging participation at the local level can increase forest conservation effectiveness. However, there is a lack of regulations for dealing with violations under the current rules. In conclusion, this study recommends expanding the range to calculate payouts, thereby increasing remuneration and motivation for the local people to be involved in forest conservation.
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