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* From Swidden to Rubber

* From Swidden to Rubber

Transforming Landscape and Livelihoods in Mountainous Northern Laos

(p.260) 20 * From Swidden to Rubber
The Social Lives of Forests
Yayqi Fujita Lagerqvist
University of Chicago Press

This chapter focuses on the driving forces behind land use change in upland areas of the Sing district in Laos and how these changes affect local people's livelihoods and their relationship with land. Changes include expansion of agricultural lands, replacement old swidden and fallow lands, and encroachment of commercial agriculture into forest, as well as complex interaction between local stakeholders and the evolution of policies that influence households’ decisions on land use and their livelihoods. Intensification of land use for commercial agriculture is especially prominent in areas along the road where population are concentrated due to government policies encouraging relocation of upland people. Different factors influence farmers’ decisions to plant commercial crops, including concentration of population and loss of access to extensive agricultural lands, increased need for cash income, and available access to capital and inputs. Villagers are increasingly privatizing areas of communal land by planting rubber, and making claims to land, as there is no formal land title issued for households. Competition for land is also increasing as investors and others make claims to land. Loss of access to land and other basic means of livelihood is creating a new kind of poverty in rural Laos.

Keywords:   Land use change, Deforestation, change in forest access regimes, commercial agriculture, cross-boundary information, Chinese investment

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