Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Livelihood Strategies for Coping with Land Loss among Households in Vietnam's Sub-Urban Areas

Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Livelihood Strategies for Coping with Land Loss among Households in Vietnam's Sub-Urban Areas

Article excerpt


Using a novel data set from my household survey in a sub-urban district of Hanoi, Vietnam, this study is the first attempt using an econometric approach to investigate the relationship between farmland loss (due to urbanization and industrialization) and households' livelihood strategies. The results from the multinomial logit model provide the first econometric evidence that land loss increases with the probability of households adopting a strategy specializing in a single nonfarm activity (informal paid jobs or household businesses) or diversifying in many activities. This suggests that many households have actively coped with the shock of losing land. Such adaptation strategies in the new context can help mitigate their dependence on farmland as well as might help improve their welfare. Therefore, a possible implication here is that the rising of land loss should not be seen as an absolutely negative phenomenon because it can improve household welfare by motivating households to change or diversify their livelihoods. Besides, some household asset-related variables such as education, farmland, and the prime location of houses were found to be closely associated with participation in nonfarm activities. Based on evidence from the econometric analyses, the study proposes some policy recommendations that may help households diversify or specialize in lucrative nonfarm activities, given the context of shrinking farmland due to rapid urbanization in Hanoi's sub-urban areas.

Keywords: specialization, diversification, farmland conversion, sub-urban areas

1. Introduction

In the poor world, where most people rely largely on agricultural production, land becomes an important livelihood asset. In almost developing countries, agricultural production plays a crucial role in growth, employment and livelihoods (Department for International Development, 2002). Thus, land and rural livelihood have been topics of interest for researchers and development practitioners. As concluded by Deininger and Feder (1999, p. 1): "In agrarian societies land serves as the main means for not only generating livelihood but often also for accumulating wealth and transferring it between generations." For this reason, land continues to play a key role in the livelihood strategies of rural people and land change will result in significant impacts on their livelihoods.

International experience shows that the high pace of urbanization and rapid economic growth often take place with conversion of farmland for use in infrastructure development, housing and industrial projects (Ramankutty, Foley & Olejniczak, 2002). Since launching the economic reforms known as "??i m?i" (renovation) in 1986, Vietnam has experienced rapid industrialization and urbanization, which has led to conversions of a huge area of farmland for nonfarm use purposes (Nguyen, 2009). In addition, increasing urban population and rapid economic growth, particularly in the urban areas of Vietnam's large cities, have resulted in a great demand for urban land. In the period from 1993 to 2008, about half of a million hectares of farmland were converted to urban, industrial or commercial land, especially in sub-urban areas (the World Bank, 2011b). Between 2000 and 2007, it was estimated that about half of a million hectares of farmland were taken for nonfarm uses, accounting for 5 percent of the country' land (VietNamNet/TN, 2009). Agricultural land is of great importance to the livelihood of the majority of the Vietnamese rural population, especially unskilled labourers. By 2011, about 60 percent of the labour force was engaged in agriculture, of which about 90 percent were unskilled workers (the General Statistical Office of Vietnam, 2011). Therefore, farmland conversion has a major effect on poor households in Vietnam's rural and sub-urban areas (the Asian Development Bank, 2007).

In the context of the rising loss of agricultural land due to urbanization and industrialization in many peripheries of Vietnam's large cities, a number of studies have attempted to find an answer to how farmland loss has affected rural household livelihoods, mostly using qualitative or descriptive statistics methods (Do, 2006; Nguyen, Vu & Philippe, 2011; Nguyen, Nguyen & Ho, 2013; Nguyen, 2009). …

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