Do land concessions to large agricultural investors benefit local communities? An analysis of real-world outcomes in Lao PDR shows that the results are mixed, tending more towards negative impacts
Vong Nanhthavong and colleagues at the University of Bern, Switzerland, examined 177 land acquisitions for agricultural purposes in 294 villages, covering almost a quarter of a million hectares in nine provinces of Lao PDR, and focusing mainly on deals investing in rubber, eucalyptus or acacia, sugarcane, and large livestock.
Their findings, ‘Pathways to Human Wellbeing in the Context of Land Acquisitions in Lao PDR,’ were published in the May 2021 issue of Global Environmental Change.
The research team’s analysis of socio-economic data and household interviews in the affected villages showed that food security in a large proportion of villages indeed had decreased in the aftermath of land deals, and remained unchanged in many others. Only in 17% of villages did food security improve. Livestock production decreased in two-thirds of the villages studied, and remained unchanged in many others. Many experienced decreased access to farmland, water for agriculture, firewood, non-timber forest products (NTFPs) and wild game.
Road access, commonly expected to be one of the benefits of land deals, did not improve in the majority of affected villages, while in many villages, environmental pollution from agrochemicals such as fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, affected water levels and quality in nearby rivers and streams.
As large-scale land sales transform global land-use systems, the research in Lao PDR offers some useful pointers for policymakers. The paper proposes six policy considerations to safeguard human wellbeing in communities that are experiencing the impacts of one of more land deals, in short:
Read the full policy recommendations here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959378021000315
Source: Vong Nanhthavong, Christoph Oberlack, Cornelia Hett, Peter Messerli, Michael Epprecht, 'Pathways to human well-being in the context of land acquisitions in Lao PDR', Global Environmental Change, Vol. 68, 2021, 102252, ISSN 0959-3780, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2021.102252
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