BORIS Theses

BORIS Theses
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Pathways to sustainable agricultural investments in the Lao PDR: Transformations in natural resource and labour relations through land-based investments and their impacts on human well-being

Nanhthavong, Vong (2021). Pathways to sustainable agricultural investments in the Lao PDR: Transformations in natural resource and labour relations through land-based investments and their impacts on human well-being. (Thesis). Universität Bern, Bern

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After an initial boom in the early years of the millennium, global land-based investments, also called Large-Scale Land Acquisitions (LSLAs), have slowed in recent years, but their impact on local environments and human well-being still poses a challenge for fulfilling the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The debate on the effects of LSLAs lacks systematic assessment at the meso-level of spatial and administrative scale – a level that is critical for informing national policies. This research addresses that issue by first explaining how LSLAs entail differential impacts on local livelihoods, and second, by revealing how positive outcomes to these investments can be achieved in the context of the Global South. My analysis of the recent land concession inventory of the Lao PDR, including the scope, scale and socio-ecological context of LSLAs, reveals how land deals have impacted local livelihoods. They have transformed natural resources and labour relations by pushing former land users into precarious situations and onto pathways leading to different well-being outcomes. The affected villages have experienced different degrees of poverty increase or reduction. This research suggests that looking only at quantitative variables, especially the size of the land acquisitions, is a poor predictor of their socio-economic impacts. A better understanding of key variables is urgently needed to avoid both misinterpretations of the impact and misguided land-based investment policies. Using a methodological approach that includes an examination of monetary poverty, multiple dimensions of human well-being, primitive accumulation, and precarity, this research suggests that the pathway to improved human well-being in the context of LSLAs is very narrow. The decrease in monetary poverty in most villages has not resulted in positive human well-being outcomes. In terms of employment, which is the most important and immediate benefit that smallholders can enjoy, the findings reveal that in some cases, the peasants have experienced dispossession without proletarianization. In many cases, semi-proletarianization has occurred, but through adverse terms rather than could be part of a sustainable livelihood strategy. To avoid the negative impacts and ensure that land deals contribute to sustainable agricultural growth, this dissertation emphasizes four key points: 1) A comprehensive socio-environmental impact analysis and monitoring that includes natural resources such as non-timber forest products, timber and wild animals must be implemented rather than just focusing on the land itself. Implementation of the relevant accompanying measures must take place throughout the business cycle. Protecting access to the land and other resources is imperative as natural resources still play a significant role in rural resilience. This will ensure that smallholders, particularly women and vulnerable groups like ethnic minorities, can sustain their traditional livelihoods, especially during the transition period. 2) Adverse outcomes tend to occur in cases in which smallholders are dependent on natural resources for a living rather than already being engaged in the non-farm sector. Therefore, the development of LSAs must consider the socio-ecological heterogeneity of peasant livelihoods. 3) The International Code of Conduct (free, prior, and informed consent) per se does not guarantee positive well-being outcomes but it does provide space for consultation and negotiation. Thus, it is an important tool that should be applied by the investors, but should not be considered as the solution for safeguards. 4) Promoting land-based investments as a means of poverty reduction in rural areas by moving from the natural resource- to wage-based livelihoods is effective only with accompanying related measures. The national government should consider appropriate trade-offs among different development goals – for example, large-scale, labour-intensive investments may not significantly contribute to national growth but they may generate a higher number of jobs which may have a great positive impact on human well-being.

Item Type: Thesis
Dissertation Type: Cumulative
Date of Defense: 23 September 2021
Subjects: 300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 360 Social problems & social services
900 History > 910 Geography & travel
Institute / Center: 08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
10 Strategic Research Centers > Centre for Development and Environment (CDE)
Depositing User: Hammer Igor
Date Deposited: 02 Nov 2021 11:19
Last Modified: 23 Sep 2022 00:30

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