Measuring smallholder land investments in northwest Vietnam
Owens, Richard Christopher
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ABSTRACT In this dissertation, I investigate the connection between land tenure and the conservation of natural resources in the northwestern uplands of Vietnam (Sơn La province) through a focus on the political and economic forces that shape smallholder investment practices. Within a historically-informed context, I analyze and compare smallholder land use decisions among Kinh, Hmông, and Thái groups considering identity, cultural practices, and household economics. Recently, Vietnam has banned swidden agriculture in favor of the intensification of upland agriculture. To that purpose, it has provided technology, subsidies, and extension services targeted to lowland majority development models. During the course of this dissertation, I analyze soil conservation activities in three villages (between and within designs) and across the commune at the household level. Results from investment activities (short-term, long-term and household rate categories) show that smallholders’ long-term investments are significantly smaller in relation to household investments. I contend that there are a number of social, economic, and environmental reasons for why Hmông, Thái and Kinh are not making significant soil conservation investments. State policies aimed at suppressing swidden agriculture have been replaced with intensive upland farming, leading to increased erosion and land degradation. Traditional swidden systems do not require inputs, hence they are not receiving long-term investments. Upland farming is possible through the use of inorganic fertilizers that are necessary for HYV maize production. Examining the failure of the property rights to conserve natural resources this research makes a significant contribution to the theory of property rights This study considers the socio-cultural and economics dynamics of land title and natural resource management.