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puce Newsletter AGTER October 2018. Regressive land reform in Southeast Asia: reversing the agrarian reforms of the 1960s and 1970s
Christian Castellanet, Marie Mellac
La lettre d'information du réseau Agter

La lettre d'information du réseau Agter

The association AGTER runs an international network of people, exchanging and thinking together how to improve the governance of land, water and natural resources.The network selects and makes information available but it also formulates suggestions and alternatives to face the current great challenges. This quaterly newsletter is presenting the latest information available on our website : www.agter.asso.fr.

30 October 2018

Regressive land reform in Southeast Asia: reversing the agrarian reforms of the 1960s and 1970s

by Marie Mellac, Christian Castellanet

Since the food price crisis of 2007, the scientific literature addressing questions of land and property in Southeast Asia has grown considerably. This said, most of this literature focuses on individual countries, and/or evaluates land-grabbing in a vacuum rather than examining current land reforms, and their historical roots, from a holistic perspective. The study that we conducted on behalf of the french Technical Committee on Land Tenure and Development addresses these issues by placing current dynamics within a broader historical and geographical context (see article below).

Burma, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam have all witnessed an increase in land-related conflicts in recent years, some of which are highly violent and potentially destabilizing. This situation is fostering the development of a regional civil society and fomenting tension between governments that perpetrate and/or are affected by land grabbing in a context where regional institutions are not answerable since land is considered a sovereign policy at national level. It can be traced to a series of land reforms that share remarkably similar goals and methods, regardless of the political regimes that implemented them. Throughout the period that began with colonization and transitioned into socialism before returning to economic liberalism, land policy has followed a distinct pattern throughout the region:
- Promotion of private property and concessions during the colonial period,
- Nationalization and collectivism, then
- Redistribution (sometimes egalitarian) during the post-socialist period,
- Return to private property (or extensive usage rights) via land registration and
- Awarding of concessions, since 2000

Recently, the different political paths chosen by the countries in the region led to distinct approaches to land reform. Cambodia and Burma, which became parliamentary democracies (in 2011 for Burma), encouraged classical property rights through the development of state registration systems, whereas the socialist governments of Vietnam and Laos provided peasant farmers with less and less restrictive “certificates of possession” (with increased duration, and right to buy and sell these certificates) that eventually functioned as de facto property titles, whether or not this was openly acknowledged. Starting in the beginning of the 2000s, however, these differences began to fade away as the four countries pursued similar economic policies: establish a neoliberal market economy, promote modernization by “turning land into capital,” and heavily subsidize industrial and export crops (rubber trees, oil palm, sugar cane, forest plantations) via massive (primarily foreign) investments.

In Vietnam, which launched an exhaustive land registration effort that included forest lands very early on, conflict revolves primarily around the expropriation of farmland in the context of urbanization and large infrastructure projects. As with European, Japanese, and Indian resistance movements, Vietnamese farmers have questioned whether or not such projects are truly in the public interest; above all, they are concerned with the level of compensation that they are receiving, based on agricultural land prices, whereas the land value gains ultimately contribute to state coffers but also reinforces corruption networks.

In Cambodia, Laos, and Burma, conflicts over urbanization are less prominent than conflicts related to the development of industrial forestry and agriculture. Land registration programs prioritized the rice-producing central plains where occupation rights are socially recognized, but ignored forests lands at higher altitudes, where ethnic minorities who practice rainfed slash and burn agriculture maintain a certain degree of autonomy from the central government. By limiting land registration efforts to specific farming communities, these governments sent a clear message that unrecorded lands were “vacant” and available for concessions or development projects that disregard the rights of local populations.

This situation greatly facilitated the awarding of concessions, which have multiplied over time. They are particularly extensive in Cambodia, covering almost 25% of the national territory in 2015; 486 contracts have placed 4.4 million hectares of mining (2,3) and forest (2,1) concessions under private control, while only 3 million hectares are owned by 1.9 million families and cultivated by roughly 1.4 million farming families. Although agroforestry concessions take up significantly less space (450,000 hectares in 2012) in Laos, they still occupy 5% of the national territory. In Burma, agroforestry concessions have expanded from 800,000 to 2.1 million hectares in only 3 years, between 2010 and 2013.

The amount of land that is being transferred from governments to private corporations, and the massive inequalities that these transfers create in a context where most of the population depends on agriculture and where the percentage of landless families is growing, constitutes what has been referred to “regressive land reform” or “land counter-reform” — the exact opposite of the agrarian reforms of socialist and social inspiration in the 1960s and 70s.

Translated from French to English by Jesse Rafert (AGTER member).

Marie Mellac is a geographer, researcher, and associate professor (UMR Passages, Université Bordeaux Montaigne and CNRS). Christian Castellanet is an agronomist and ecologist. He is a part-time senior expert at the GRET and an associate expert with the association AGTER. Marie Mellac and Christian Castellanet are both AGTER members.

article(s) French  Spanish English  - video French  Spanish English 


Bulletin d’information AGTER Octobre 2018. Des réformes foncières régressives en Asie du Sud-Est, à l’opposé des réformes agraires des années 1960-1970

30 October 2018, by Marie Mellac, Christian Castellanet

Newsletter # 43 FR

Hétérogénéité et différenciation des unités de production agricole européennes : illustrations des situations anglaise, allemande et française

5 October 2018, by Robert Levesque, Amel Benkahla

À partir de l’expérience de l’Angleterre, de l’Allemagne et de la France, retrouvez les éléments clés du contexte économique, social et environnemental qui ont influencé l’évolution des structures agricoles et les enjeux actuels en matière de régulation des marchés fonciers, dans un contexte de concentration foncière et remplacement progressif des agricultures paysanne par des entreprises capitalistes.

Des nouvelles du chantier de réflexion du Comité Technique Foncier et Développement sur les structures agraires et l’accès des jeunes à la terre qu’animent AGTER et SCAFR - Terre d’Europe

5 October 2018

Un point d’étape réalisé par le secrétariat du CTFD qui rappelle les axes de réflexion du chantier et les différentes sessions de travail réalisées jusqu’à présent.

24 août 2018. Grenoble. AGTER coorganise un module à l’université d’été solidaire et rebelle des mouvements sociaux et citoyens

21 August 2018, by l’équipe d’agter

programme du module : Au cœur de nos campagnes : l’agriculture paysanne face à de nombreux défis, qui a été organisé par la Confédération Paysanne, Attac, AGTER, et ADDEAR.

Le bail emphytéotique à Madagascar est-il une vente de la patrie ?

24 July 2018, by Collectif TANY

La mise en location de millions d’hectares de terre malgaches sous forme de bail emphytéotique à des investisseurs est prônée par les dirigeants malgaches pour développer l’Agriculture. Des citoyens malgaches et des organisations de la société civile critiquent et condamnent cette conception qui lèse les intérêts majeurs de la nation en qualifiant cette pratique de « vente de la terre des ancêtres, vente de la patrie ».

Histoires divergentes d’une convergence sous tension. Les réformes foncières vers la propriété privée dans quatre pays du Mékong (Birmanie, Cambodge, Laos et Viêt-Nam)

24 July 2018, by Christian Castellanet, Marie Mellac

Ce document donne des clés pour comprendre les dynamiques foncières contemporaines de ces quatre pays et les enjeux actuel en lien avec le développement des grandes entreprises qui bénéficient de concessions et l’augmentation des paysans sans terre.

Payer pour l’environnement? Le mécanisme REDD+ et les Paiements pour Services Environnementaux permettront-ils de s’attaquer aux causes sous-jacentes de la déforestation?

24 July 2018, by Alain Karsenty, Aurélie Vogel, Christian Castellanet, Sylvain Angerand

Une intéressante note de synthèse rédigée à partir de l’atelier organisé conjointement par le CIRAD, le GRET et les Amis de la Terre, les 17 et 18 juin 2013 à Nogent sur Marne.

Newsletter Octubre 2018. Reformas agrarias regresivas en el sudeste asiático, en oposición a las reformas agrarias de 1960-1970

30 October 2018, by Marie Mellac, Christian Castellanet

Newsletter # 43 ES

La organización económica de los pequeños y medianos productores. Presente y futuro del campo mexicano

14 August 2018, by Hector Robles

Experiencias exitosas de organización económica de pequeños y medianos productores que dan argumentos para refutar la idea de que no tienen viabilidad y para desechar la práctica gubernamental de atenderlos solo desde la perspectiva de los programas sociales y no desde los programas de apoyo productivo.

Mujeres rurales y campesinas: la reproducción social ante los desafíos del contexto actual Un artículo del dossier « Contracorriente: el desafío femenino » (Revista de Análisis de la Realidad Nacional. IPNUSAC. Guatemala)

10 August 2018, by Ana Patricia Castillo Huertas

Una importante contribución que apunta la necesidad de repensar las políticas públicas orientadas hacia las mujeres rurales y campesinas en Guatemala, redactado por una feminista guatemalteca que forma parte de los miembros fundadores de AGTER.

Ecología política del modelo conservacionista de las concesiones forestales comunitarias en la Reserva de la Biósfera Maya

9 August 2018, by Pablo Prado, Julio Gustavo López

Un artículo científico de un profesor universitario guatemalteco miembro del Consejo de administración de AGTER (Pablo Prado, co-autor) que ofrece una interpretación del modelo de gestión colectiva del bosque en el Peten a partir de la consideración de los principales desafíos de estas experiencias y de las contradicciones entre los sustratos ideológicos que subyacen a las lógicas y prácticas conservacionistas en Guatemala.

Seminario FAO sobre gobernanza responsable de la tenencia de la tierra en Guatemala

9 August 2018

Conferencia de M. Merlet en un seminario internacional de la FAO a principios de agosto en la ciudad de Guatemala. Una breve síntesis de los temas sobre los cuales AGTER trabaja, centrada en la revisión de los derechos de propiedad, de la economía de la tierra y de los recursos naturales y de la necesidad urgente de regular los mercados de tierras.

Convergence under pressure. Different routes to private ownership through land reforms in four Mekong countries (Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam)

24 July 2018, by Christian Castellanet, Marie Mellac

This document provides keys to understanding the contemporary land dynamics of these four countries and the current issues related to the development of large enterprises that benefit from concessions and the increase of landless peasants.

Paying for the environment? Can the REDD+ mechanism and the Payments for Environmental Services (PES) tackle the underlying causes of deforestation?

24 July 2018, by Alain Karsenty, Aurélie Vogel, Christian Castellanet, Sylvain Angerand

An interesting summary note written from the workshop organized jointly by CIRAD, GRET and Friends of the Earth, on 17 and 18 June 2013 in Nogent sur Marne.


Conférence Internationale sur la Réforme Agraire et le Développement Rural ICARRD 2006. Vidéo synthèse

9 September 2018, by Paolo Groppo

Une vidéo historique de la conférence de Porto Alegre de la FAO qui a replacé la question foncière à l’agenda international, que nous ajoutons au dossier consacré par AGTER aux conférences internationales sur la Réforme Agraire.

Marginalisation économique et exclusion sociale de la paysannerie sierra-léonaise. Conférence d’Augustin Pallière

27 July 2018, by Augustin Pallière

Cette synthèse vidéo d’une Réunion Thématique d’AGTER pointe une question très peu évoquée lors de l’année internationale de l’agriculture familiale et pourtant essentielle. La paysannerie sierra-léonaise ne joue pas le rôle de producteur des vivres ou de produits agricoles d’exportation, mais avant tout celui de producteurs d’une force de travail à bas coût pour le secteur minier ou agro-industriel.

Conferencia Internacional sobre Reforma Agraria y Desarrollo Rural ICARRD 2006. Video de sintesis

9 September 2018, by Paolo Groppo

Video histórico de la conferencia de Porto Alegre (FAO). Lo agregamos al archivo de AGTER que trata de las Conferencias Internacionales sobre Reforma Agraria en nuestra base de conocimiento en línea.

International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development ICARRD 2006. Video synthesis

9 September 2018, by Paolo Groppo

Historical video of the Porto Alegre conference (FAO) which has put back the land issue on the international agenda. We added it to the file devoted by AGTER to the international conferences on Agrarian Reform in our online knowledge base.

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