Land Grabs : The Impact of Rubber Plantations in Laos

This is an appropriation of an essay I wrote for my Masters in Development Studies course. Fully cited and referenced version available upon request, republishing by permission only.

We were asked to write an essay on the  impact of ‘land grabs’ on poor communities, limiting our analysis to one or two chosen regions. ‘Land grabs’ is a rather sensationalist term that refers to large-scale land deals, usually between governments and private investors (often foreign). Calling these deals ‘land grabs’, while rather emotional, is unfortunately accurate, as they tend to alienate local communities from vital land and resources. For more general information on land grabs, see my Oxfam post (also reblogged here).

I chose to focus my analysis on large-scale rubber plantations in southern Laos, pretty classic examples of ‘land grabs.’ Laos is rich in natural resources, and ‘development’ has become synonymous with private investments in these resources. The result is the transformation of agricultural land into cash crop plantations, mining projects and hydroelectric dams.

Vietnamese rubber companies’ investments in Laos constitute some of the biggest land deals in the Asia-Pacific region. Across Champasak and Attapeu provinces in southern Laos, over 30,000 hectares of land have been granted to Vietnamese rubber companies.[1] While these large-scale land deals promise Laotian communities employment, income and infrastructure, the reality on the ground is often meagre job prospects, lost access to vital resources, and less recognition of land rights. Continue reading