Land Accumulation: Opportunity or Threat for Small Farmers in Vietnam?

fields_smallVietnam is a nation of small farmers, with average holdings of paddy land under 0.5 ha per household.

Private land tenure only recently returned to rural Vietnam, with the dismantling of the collective farms in the 1980s and 1990s, and remains heavily restricted. Agricultural land is still technically owned by the state, and farmers  receive use-rights for 20 year terms. There is a proposal on the table, however, to further loosen restrictions on land ownership, with the aim of fostering land accumulation and defragmentation of holdings. The fear, however, is that an unfettered land market could have negative consequences for the poor, leading to rising landlessness and inequality.

Since our work is focused on improving the livelihoods and competitiveness of small farmers, we are watching this issue closely. If you would like to learn more about land accumulation, please read the article below (or at its original location here).

Farmers’ interests forefront reform debate

VietNamNet Bridge – Draft amendments to the Land Law that allow for larger landholdings are necessary to modernise the agriculture sector and increase efficiency, but this process should also ensure farmers’ benefits, experts say.

The accumulation of land is one of the key issues in the draft amendments proposed to the current Land Law that were discussed at a recent conference organised by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in HCM City.

The meeting was held to gather opinions about the draft amendments to the Land Law from all sectors.

Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Ho Xuan Hung told the conference that the country’s agricultural land was not being exploited effectively because most farms were small sized, resulting in lower output and high production costs.

Many enterprises and individuals who want to invest in agricultural production are unable to find land, while some farming households are not using their allocated land effectively.

Consequently, the domestic agriculture industry has failed to attract investment from other economic sectors, Hung said.

He said these land-related problems should be addressed by amendments and supplements to the current land law.

Other participants at the meeting said amended law needs to have regulations clearly identifying land areas used for growing wet rice and afforestation in cities and provinces nationwide.

They also proposed that the tenure of land allocated or rented to households and individuals should be extended from the current 20 to 50 or 70 years, and land quotas (maximum landholding per household) doubled from the current six-hectare limit.

Already happening

A representative from the Mekong Delta province of An Giang’s agriculture and rural development department said the accumulation of land has already been taking place for several years.

As of last August, 324,179 farming households in An Giang were granted land use right certificates for 241,720ha of agricultural land.

Those that owned less than a hectare accounted for 75.76 per cent of the total number of households and 43.76 per cent of the total land.Those having between three and five hectares of land represented 7.64 per cent.

Significantly, farming households that owned five hectares or more numbered only 426 but they managed up to 3,750 hectares.

The provincial natural resources and environment service also revealed that between 2001-2007, the agency allowed 70,746 households to transfer a total of 42,498ha of their farming land.

These figures proved that “gathering land together” was a practical requirement of the people, the official said.

Dang Quang Phan from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment noted that the country now had 10 million hectares of land for cultivation owned by nearly 14 million farming households. The average landholding per household was 0.7 hectares, Phan said.

There were at present about 100,000 farms with an average landholding of five hectares. This means that to have a five-hectare farm, these farm owners would have gathered land from seven households.

This shows that land accumulation could not be avoided if the agriculture sector had to engage in large-scale production, he said.

Phan added however that the government must have legal regulations and policies to ensure that the land accumulation would not affect farmers’ interests.

Meanwhile, Dr Vu Trong Khai from the Agriculture and Rural Development Management Cadres’School, said that the leasing of their land use rights by farmers should be considered an ordinary economic action because it would bring benefits to both land owners and tenants.

Development of households-based farms with large landholdings was indispensable and unavoidable, but the current land law did not deal with this requirement, said former Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Cong Tan.

Tan suggested that amendments to the land law should create great changes such as longer terms for land use, free transfer of arable land, and abrogation of land quota regulations.

The amendments to the law should also be made in ways that help strengthen the control of land use to prevent speculation on land, he said.

All the lands that are found to be used for wrong purposes must be confiscated immediately, he added.

Mai Van Linh, chairman of the Thanh Hoa Province’s People’s Committee, said that small-sized farms would increase production costs and prevent mechanisation and use of advanced technology in agricultural production. Therefore land accumulation was necessary.

However, the Government needs to have measures to ensure that land accumulation is implemented in a proper manner so that it will encourage development of the farm economy, while landless or land poor farmers are not impoverished.



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