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Environments 2015, 2(2), 250-279; doi:10.3390/environments2020250

Do Relocated Villages Experience More Forest Cover Change? Resettlements, Shifting Cultivation and Forests in the Lao PDR

1
Department of Geography and Environment, University of Geneva, Uni Mail, 40 Bd du Pont-d'Arve, CH-1211 Genève 4, Switzerland
2
Centro de Ciência do Sistema Terrestre, National Institute for Space Research (INPE), Av. dos Astronautas, 1758, CEP 12201-027, São José dos Campos 12630-000, Brazil
3
Centre for Development and Environment & Institute of Geography, University of Bern, Hallerstrasse 10, Bern CH-3012, Switzerland
4
Faculty of Forestry, National University of Laos, Dongdok, Xaythany District, Vientiane 7332, Laos
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Yu-Pin Lin
Received: 30 December 2014 / Revised: 2 June 2015 / Accepted: 5 June 2015 / Published: 12 June 2015
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Selected Papers from 2014 Global Land Project (GLP) Asia Conference)
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Abstract

This study explores the relationships between forest cover change and the village resettlement and land planning policies implemented in Laos, which have led to the relocation of remote and dispersed populations into clustered villages with easier access to state services and market facilities. We used the Global Forest Cover Change (2000–2012) and the most recent Lao Agricultural Census (2011) datasets to assess forest cover change in resettled and non-resettled villages throughout the country. We also reviewed a set of six case studies and performed an original case study in two villages of Luang Prabang province with 55 households, inquiring about relocation, land losses and intensification options. Our results show that resettled villages have greater baseline forest cover and total forest loss than most villages in Laos but not significant forest loss relative to that baseline. Resettled villages are consistently associated with forested areas, minority groups, and intermediate accessibility. The case studies highlight that resettlement coupled with land use planning does not necessarily lead to the abandonment of shifting cultivation or affect forest loss but lead to a re-spatialization of land use. This includes clustering of forest clearings, which might lead to fallow shortening and land degradation while limited intensification options exist in the resettled villages. This study provides a contribution to studying relationships between migration, forest cover change, livelihood strategies, land governance and agricultural practices in tropical forest environments. View Full-Text
Keywords: resettlements; deforestation; rural development; ethnic minorities; Laos resettlements; deforestation; rural development; ethnic minorities; Laos
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Boillat, S.; Stich, C.; Bastide, J.; Epprecht, M.; Thongmanivong, S.; Heinimann, A. Do Relocated Villages Experience More Forest Cover Change? Resettlements, Shifting Cultivation and Forests in the Lao PDR. Environments 2015, 2, 250-279.

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