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Transformation of Vietnam's upland farming societies under market reform

by Henin, Bernard Henry

Abstract (Summary)
Vietnam's economic renovation programme (doi moi ) has ushered in an era of major soaal and econornic transformation. Since 1986, when the reforms were initiated, rural development in Vietnam has assumed new meanings, new foms of irnplementation, and new directions of planning. Central planning policies, once the hallmark of this soaalist soĆ ety, have been progressively abandoned in favour of free markets and a liberal development philosophy. In agriculture, a senes of economic and land refonns have officially reinstalled the family farm as the primas, unit of production. The results have been generally positive. Al1 macro- economic indicators point to general growth and improved standards of living in much of rural Vietnam. Agricultural production has inueased to the point that Vietnam is now one of the world's leading exporters of rice. Average incomes in urban and rural areas have improved. Poverty has declined in most of the country's population. At the regional level, however, research has shown that progress has been uneven. The gap in social and economic conditions is growing within and among regions. Poverty remains entrenched in disadvantaged sectors of the rural population. The growth of the market economy in Vietnam has been generally accompanied with a decline of state investment in rural areas. At the same time, the country's hierarchical political structure continues to favour top-down planning, offering little provision for local input in economic and political deasions. This has hampered the development in many ethnic minority farming communities in remote areas. This study addresses the consequences of commercialization and modemization of agriculture on ethnic minority farming communities in upland areas. It focuses on two case studies in the upland regions of North Vietnam: a Nung commune of villages in Lang Son province, near the Chinese border, and a Thai village in Son La province, near Laos. These communities have been deeply affected by the forces of comrnercialization in ways that are uniquely shaped by their geographical location wi thin Vietnam. The general questions addressed by the study concern the transformation of village economies under market refom. They examine the changes in standards of living and quality of life as well as the constraints acting on the development of family farms. hnportantly, they focus on the role of the state and local governrnent in influencing the process of rural development. An ethnographical approach has been adopted-a multiple research strategy, based on multiple theories of agrarian change, a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods of data collection, and multiple interviewers. The objective has been to gather insider knowledge through participant observation and depth interviewing . The study presents the results of the empirical analysis of the data and their interpretation according to existing theories of agrarian change. It then refines some of those concepts in the light of the ernpirical data collected and presents new concepts and generaiizations that shed light on the process of upland development in Vietnam and other reforming socialist economies of Asia.
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Source Type:Master's Thesis

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Date of Publication:01/01/1999

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