Dietrich Darr, Holm Uibrig:
Farm Forestry to Alleviate Poverty -- Findings from Three Differently Developed Rural Economies in Central Laos


Universtiy of Dresden, Institute of International Forestry and Forest Products, Germany

The socio-economic development of largely subsistence-oriented rural areas is a prominent policy objective in Laos. Whereas in the surrounds of major urban centres and regions with favourable infrastructure and market access a dynamic industrial and service sector have emerged, most of the countryside remains economically undeveloped.

Cultivation of commercial tree species is acknowledged as a successful option to diversify farm production, to generate supplementary financial income and thus to include rural populations into the market economy. The Government of Laos promotes private afforestation through allocation of permanent use rights of degraded forestlands to individual households, as well as the recognition of private ownership of the plantations.

The study analyses socio-economic prerequisites for and obstacles of farm forest establishment at individual farm-household level employing the Farming Systems Research Approach. Three villages that differ with regard to their socio-economic development and that represent semi-subsistent, semi-commercialised and fully commercialised economic contexts, respectively, were investigated.

The explorative field research followed a specifically elaborated mix of methods. Empirical social research tools such as interviews and observation were conducted to collect primary data sets of 73 peasant households.

The study revealed that farm forest establishment largely is determined by customary land claims. Households that are traditionally deprived of access to land resources benefit from farm forestry in circumstances only of abundant, yet unclaimed land reserve.

Under semi-subsistent conditions, farm forestry plots are mainly established by well-off households that have a minimum level of land, labour and capital resources at their disposal. In the commercialised village, tree planters typically belong to the medium population stratum, whereas well-off households primarily derive their livelihood from profitable off-farm employment and less from farm activities. In general, farm forestry failed to address the needs of the poorest households.

Keywords: Private afforestation, resource access, rural development

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Contact Address: Dietrich Darr, Universtiy of Dresden, Institute of International Forestry and Forest ProductsWeissiger Höhe 1, 01737 Tharandt, Germany, e-mail:
Andreas Deininger, September 2004