Agrarian and land dynamics in the Mekong region at the beginning of the 21st century. What role for peasants?

Couverture Asie du Sud-Est 2021Jean-Christophe DIEPART

The chapter offers a comparative analysis of the agrarian changes and land tenure transformations that have occurred since 2000 in the five countries of the Mekong region (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam). Its central argument is that peasants are increasingly excluded from mainstream rural development and agricultural modernization policies and practices through various political and economic mechanisms, which this chapter presents. It first situates peasants within the structural transformations of the national economies in the Mekong region. It then exposes major pathways of land-use change, namely the intensification of rice production in the lowland regions and the agrarian expansion into peripheral uplands. Questions of land distribution between producers are then addressed, firstly within peasant communities and secondly in comparison with the increased influence of corporate actors who have acquired significant tracts of land through concession agreements. The chapter closes with a presentation of the multiple challenges faced by smallholder farmers regarding land tenure security and land governance.

Keywords: Mekong, Agrarian Change, Smallholder farmers, Land Tenure, Agricultural Investment