Rubber plantations and their implications on gender roles and relations in northern uplands Vietnam


Nga Dao


Assistant Professor

York University

I am a broadly trained human-environment geographer and international development practioner/environmental activist with more than two decades of applied research experience.


Focusing on the transformation of livelihoods after the creation of the rubber plantation in the Northern Uplands of Vietnam, this research analyses the gendered impact specifically.

In recent years, rubber plantations have been strongly promoted in the northern uplands of Vietnam–especially in the northwest, where it is an ill agro-ecological fit–with an aim to improve ethnic minority livelihoods and to modernise peasants by transforming them into rubber workers. A large area of land has been taken away from farmers to make way for rubber plantations. This land acquisition and agrarian transformation have impacted local people and their livelihoods in various ways.

Drawing on ethnographic research, in combination with interviews with authorities and studying related documents, this research focuses on the gendered consequences of rubber plantation in northern uplands Vietnam.

Key Findings

The impact on men and women was extremely different. Women's role changed. Did not bind themselves with just domestic work which went against traditional practices. Often they started their own businesses or took up paid labour elsewhere.
A number of men often turned to drug and alcohol abuse, had overwhelming feelings of uselessness. Slipped further and further down society.
Divorce although being viewed as having positive connotations, related to increasing women's rights, often were experienced negatively in the village. Prior to the rubber plantation, divorces were extremely rare, after the plantation many felt they had to divorce their husbands due to their anti-social behaviour.

How to use

NGOs should incorporate this research into their strategies. For example, writing letters to policymakers to influence decisions. Should argue for a deeper analysis of those who are affected. Can create a dialogue/discussion setting, including local people and the media; many villagers were not fully aware of the consequences of the rubber plantation and were often coerced into joining the plantation.
When implementing development projects it is important to consider how much this changes local people's daily life. The villagers' life and work patterns/division of labour have changed significantly. Rubber work is constant all year, whereas farming has seasons.
Consider the permanency of projects. Villagers had no option to back out of the rubber plant project or be able to regain their land back. Compensation was incredibly limited in relation to the long-term consequences.
Ensure that full, clear, and inclusive consultation sessions are held prior to project implementation. Often villagers were not listened to and they now suffer from poorly implemented projects.

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

Nga Dao (2018) ‘Rubber plantations and their implications on gender roles and relations in northern uplands Vietnam’, Gender, Place & Culture, 25:11, pp.1579-1600.

About this research

This research was independently conducted and did not receive funding from outside of the university.

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This research contributes to the following SDGs

About this research

This research was independently conducted and did not receive funding from outside of the university.

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What it means

I argue that the process of becoming a rubber worker and adapting to the new way of living has indeed added new roles and responsibilities for women. At the same time, it has undermined men’s values and reshaped gender relations both within and outside the home.

The findings from this research would be applicable to different rubber plantations, palm oil, soy bean plantations etc, especially across China, India, and other countries in which land consolidation/land grab is taking place.

Plus any project which involves a transition from self-employment/land ownership to paid labour or government led development/modernisation projects which have private company involvement. Or national projects.


Interview based: Held group discussions and individual interviews. Often gender-segregated. However, there was a very regional specific; entirely focused on those people, their education level, culture and traditions. Results may be different elsewhere.

Let your research make a social impact

Arianne Zajac prepared this research following an interview with Nga Dao.