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Accueil du site > Equipes de Recherche > Dynamiques foncières dans le district de Sing, province de Luang Namtha, RDP du Laos > Problem, objectives, contexts and challenges

Problem, objectives, contexts and challenges

Northern Laos consist of mountainous sloping land with limited access to arable agricultural land. According to the national survey, high incidence of forest degradation is reported in this region. While destructive aspects of shifting cultivation in the context of increasing population concentrations in the upland have been given much attention, little attention has been paid to the complex human and agro-ecosystem relations of upland communities. This has resulted in application of government policies that tend to simplify the causes, and restrict shifting cultivation and other uses of forest resources in the upland areas by prescribing how space and other resources should be used. The historical patterns of land cover and land use change and the mechanism of land use transition, as well as its relation to population structure, demographic patterns and household livelihoods has been largely understudied. The target area for this research is Sing district in the province of Luang Namtha.

The population of this district today is 30,548 people. There are 94 villages or baan, which is the lowest administrative unit in Laos. It is striking that the population increased between 1995 and 2005, while numbers of villages in the district have declined from 110 villages in 1995 to 94 villages in 2005. This is due to both government induced relocation and spontaneous resettlement of upland villagers to lowland villages. Unlike in the past, when resettlement often meant shifting of residential area, but retaining access to vast agricultural land in the upland areas, the recent migration is more permanent as the villagers abandon their upland villages including residential and agricultural lands. What this indicates is a trend of dramatic population decline in the upland areas and rapid concentration of population in lowland areas in three sub-districts including Thongmai, Namkeoluang and Vieng, as well as lowland valleys in Mom sub-district.

Over the years, agricultural land in the lowland has become scarce due to increased population and their needs for productive land. In order to ease the pressure, a transition towards more intensive and productive use of land is necessary. However, this may be achieved by socially marginalizing the migrant population as they become entrenched in agricultural wage labour relationships. This study aims to understand this increased population density in the lowlands, and increased commercialisation of agricultural production, to examine the consequences of these changes on community land and resource use practices and more generally question what are the driving forces behind the last decade of land use and socio-economic transformation in Sing district ?