Gender analysis of economic land concessions in Cambodia and in Northern Laos: Case of rubber plantations

Professor

Kyoko Kusakabe

(She/Her)

Professor

Asian Institute of Technology Thailand

Kyoko Kusakabe is Professor of Gender and Development Studies at the Asian Institute of Technology in Thailand. She has over 20 years of experience in research and teaching gender and development in Asia, especially focusing on the Mekong Subregion.

Overview

This paper gives a gender analysis on the rubber land concessions in Cambodia and in Northern Laos.

Many reports pointed out the deprivation of land by such economic concessions in Cambodia. In Northern Laos, there are different types of contracts arrangements made between the companies, district offices and the communities as well as individual farmers. With the drastic decrease in rubber price, the relationships between the companies and the farmers are also changing.

Key Findings

In Cambodia, there was no option for farmers to have contracts with the company that took over from the land concessions, as the indigenous land use system was not recognised. All villagers lost large chunks of their land, but women lost almost all of their land.
In Laos, arrangement have been diverse often dependent on difficulty of the terrain and complex local governance system.
Monocropping has negative impacts on communities, focusing on diverse plantation is important, but little research is being done on how to sustain communities in this manner. In the case of Laos, where contracts are not being enforced.

    How to apply research

    Stop renting out economic concessions to private companies. These are often carried out at a detriment to local people.

      Let your research make a social impact

      About this research

      Land grabbing, conflict and agrarian‐environmental transformations: perspectives from East and Southeast Asia
      This research was funded by the Norwegian Research Council

      Recommended for

      UN Sustainable Development Goals

      This research contributes to the following SDGs

      About this research

      Land grabbing, conflict and agrarian‐environmental transformations: perspectives from East and Southeast Asia
      This research was funded by the Norwegian Research Council

      Recommended for

      What findings means

      In Cambodia, there was no option for farmers to have contracts with the company that took over from the land concessions, as the indigenous land use system was not recognised. All villagers lost large chunks of their land, but women lost almost all of their land. Women lost their customary land rights during the rubber concession and land registration. Loss of land has left women more housebound while men engage in wage labour.

      In Laos, arrangement have been diverse often dependent on difficulty of the terrain and complex local governance system. Initial idea was good. However implementation has not gone smoothly. Rented out to a Chinese company which works faster and more efficiently but often leaves villagers left behind.  More farmers planted rubber privately and they had more negotiation power with the company. Women’s work load increased, often engaging in wage labour, however their decision making power has not seemed to increase alongside workload.

      In both cases the state facilitated the private company investment and land concessions.

      Methodology

      130 households as part of the Cambodian study with 10 follow up in-depth interviews and a group discussion. In Laos, 8 villagers were studied with 306 respondents with a following two rounds of in-depth interviews.

      However, worth noting that the situation changes rapidly, so active monitoring is important. The research was conducted during a price decrease in rubber, so the Chinese company were not enforcing contracts strictly, this could change in the future however.

      Glossary

      Precarity
      Already vulnerable communities are forces into precariousness due to government policies reducing access to land and resources.

      Want to read the full paper? It is available open access

      Kusakabe, K. (2015). ‘Gender analysis of economic land concessions in Cambodia and in Northern Laos: Case of rubber plantations.’ [Conference Paper]

      Thank you to

      for helping to prepare this research