In the Red River Delta, we focused on telling two stories including one of farmers living in Hung Yen Province about 30 km from Hanoi and another of farmers living in Nam Dinh Province about 100 km from Hanoi (see Figure 2
). Authorities describe Hung Yen Province as the eastern gate of Hanoi. Crossed by three of Hanoi’s major beltways and lying in the middle of the China-Hanoi-Hai Phong economic corridor, the province attracts FDI from global industrial powers as well as domestic investments. In order to benefit from its favorable location, the provincial government plans to build 19 concentrated industrial parks on 6650 ha of land by 2020. In contrast, the economy of Nam Dinh Province depends mainly on agriculture. It is one of the most important agricultural areas in Northern Vietnam for grains such as rice and corn as well as fruits and cotton. The province, however, is beginning to transform from an agricultural to an industrial economy.
In Hung Yen, we interviewed people living in Minh Hai and Lac Hong Communes (Văn Lâm District) and in Nghĩa Hiệp Communes (Yên Mỹ District) located near the Hung Yen Industrial Zone. According to officials from the Hung Yen Department of Labor Management, the industrial zone was developed in the early 2000s and is divided into two tracts. Together, the two tracts cover almost 900 ha and host 240 companies. In 2015, the industrial zone employed 35,000 laborers. Of these, 40% migrated to work in the zone. Most migrants are from the Red River Delta and all are from Northern Vietnam. The industrial zone set aside 20% of the land for building housing for laborers, but, as of today, no housing has been built and laborers rent housing in neighboring communes.
summarizes interview results from households in the two provinces. The average age of factory workers and professionals was 30 years old and 55% of them were female. Of respondents reporting salary, the average was 4.6 million đồng (VND) per month ($
200). They worked an average of 10 h per day and had four days off per month. A total of 16 respondents reported that salaried family members contributed financially to supporting household livelihoods. An average household received 1.5 million đồng (VND) ($
66) per month from employed family members who either lived in the house or had migrated.
Among people who reported farming as their major occupation, the average age was 48 years old. The average household had 344 m2 of residential land and 1124 m2 (0.1 ha) of agricultural land (note the average household lot size in the U.S. is 766 m2). All households reported owning farmland and most reported being involved in some farming. As required by national and provincial policies, all farming households continued to plant rice twice a year in which a majority of the households consumed. Some respondents raised chickens and other small livestock and a few rented their land out to others. Seventy-two percent of the households had lost land to the industrial estate. On average, they had been compensated for 1167 m2 (0.1 ha) of land (both residential and agricultural).
Farmers have mechanized and hired people to plow their remaining fields and thresh their crops. Some households purchased plows and threshers and hired themselves out to perform these tasks. Respondents reported that it was difficult and unproductive to grow rice in recent years because of pollution, the breakup of their fields into smaller disjointed pieces, and rat and pest infestations. The world price of rice (5% broken milled white rice) has fallen from a high of $
1015 per ton in April 2008 to $
372 per ton in January 2017 (World Bank 2017 [24
]). People are tired of farming because of low productivity and the low market price. Three households reported abandoning rice growing. Farmers would prefer to grow higher-value cash crops but government regulations forbid this because of zoning regulations that require them to grow two rice crops per year or face the possibility of losing their land. People choose to work in the industrial park because of fixed salaries, health insurance, and other benefits. Some households also have built rooms to rent out to migrant factory workers. We recorded household annual income for 14 households. The average income for these households was approximately 98 million đồng (VND) ($
4325) per year.
In interviews with managers of five companies in the Hung Yen Industrial Zone, we identified the home province of 605 laborers. After Hung Yen, most laborers came from Bac Ninh and Nam Dinh Provinces. We purposely selected 10 households in Nam Dinh Province known to receive remittance income from their children including five households from Liem Hai Commune (Truc Ninh District) and five from Nam Hai Commune (Nam Truc District). The demographics of these 10 households show some interesting differences from households in Hung Yen Province. The average household had only 4.5 people (as compared to six people in Hung Yen). The mean age was 37 (compared to 32 in Hung Yen) and only 69% of household members lived in the house (compared to 84% in Hung Yen). When asked about the major occupations of their household members, respondents replied that 47% were employed (as compared to 36% in Hung Yen) with 29% as factory workers (compared to 18%). The proportion reporting professional or multiple jobs was the same in both places. Seven respondents reported that employed family members help to support the household. As in Hung Yen, they received on average about 1.5 million đồng (VND) ($66) per month from employed family members who either lived in the house or had migrated.
Of people who reported farming as their major occupation, the average age was 56 years old. The average household had 208 m2 of residential land and 2700 m2 of agricultural land (as compared to 1124 m2). None of these households had lost land to industrialization. Farmers in Nam Dinh have mechanized land preparation and harvesting more than have farmers in Hung Yen and everyone is required to participate in these activities. All 10 households reported hiring people to plow their fields and to harvest them with combinations and four of these households reported that they used their remittance money to hire laborers for this purpose. All households reported a shortage of labor and many farmers felt they would be the last generation to engage actively in farming. As in Hung Yen Province, farmers would prefer to grow high-value cash crops rather than rice, but zoning regulations limit their options. Officials from the Truc Ninh District Department of Agriculture, however, reported that they are not currently enforcing the requirement to grow two rice crops a year because, even if farmers plant rice, they put minimal effort into it.
While few respondents were willing to consider selling their land, many were willing to rent-out land if they could find a renter. Several large-scale enterprises have shown interest in renting land but have not been able to find enough contiguous land to make large-scale farming feasible. District agriculture officials reported that the Hoa Phat Steel Joint Stock Company wants to develop a cattle feedlot to supply beef to the market in Hanoi. The company would like to rent as much as 500 ha in the Liem Hai Commune but have only been able to rent 65 ha of contiguous land from 120 households. Numerous problems make it difficult for the Hoa Phat Company to rent enough land including the fact that their land tenure documents (green books), which need to be renewed every 30 years, are currently expired. In another example, the Vingroup Corporation, which is one of the most powerful corporations in Vietnam, wanted to rent 140 ha from 3000 farmers in Xuân Hồng Commune of Xuân Trường District (Nam Dinh Province) to grow vegetables. Local authorities forced farmers to consolidate their land so that the Vingroup could access a 140-ha plot. The national government recently asked the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment to change land laws and regulations to support the consolidation of plots into larger fields. Once local authorities get involved, farmers will not be able to negotiate fair compensation for their fields.
In general, farming has been disturbed in both Hung Yen and Nam Dinh Provinces. Farmers in Hung Yen near the industrial zone report problems with pollution, the disruption of irrigation channels, smaller disjointed fields, rat and pest infestations, and the low price of rice as major disincentives for continuing to farm. Given a choice, farmers would prefer to grow vegetables and peach flowers for the Tet celebration to sell to factory workers. Other farmers would prefer to abandon farming altogether. In the two communes in Nam Dinh Province that are not close to factories, farmers report a shortage of labor to work the land. Population data from the 2006 and 2011 Vietnam Agricultural Censuses support this finding. Over the five-year period, population in the three communes near the industrial zone grew by 3% to 5% while the population in one of the communes in Nam Dinh decreased (−0.03%) and in the other grew by only 0.23%. (During this five-year period, the total population of Vietnam grew by 1.1%.) Respondents in Hung Yen reported more people per household, younger members, fewer factory workers, and more farmers than in Nam Dinh.
In Nam Dinh, older farmers are farming more land with less labor and see little hope for the future. They do not want to sell their land because they realize an economic downturn could send migrant workers back home, but they would like to grow higher-value cash crops and they are willing to rent out their land if someone is willing to pay a fair price. In both places, we see the beginning of a transition out of rice farming into commercial activities. While the Red River Delta will remain densely populated, there will be fewer people engaged in farming.
In Cambodia, we also focused on telling two stories including one of rubber tappers in Sesan District, Stung Treng Province and another of farmers and rubber tappers in Tboung Khmum Province. The two provinces are about 160 km apart (see Figure 3
). In 2005, the government granted the Sopheak Nika Investment Agro-Industry Company a land concession of 10,000 ha to grow rubber trees in Sesan District. As of 2015, the company had planted approximately 5000 ha of rubber.
We interviewed people who had migrated to Sesan to work as rubber tappers or to acquire farmland (see Baird and Fox 2015 [20
]). The mean age of informants was 35 years old and the average family had four members (see Table 2
). Migrants originated from eight provinces with the largest number coming from Kampong Cham (33%), Tboung Khmum (26%), and Kandal (12%). Other provinces of origin included Prey Veng, Kampong Thom, Svay Reing, Takeo, and Siem Reap. On average, respondents had moved to Sesan District five years earlier. Of those interviewed, most reported that they migrated to work for the rubber plantations. Rubber tappers reported that, on average, two family members migrated with them to the Northeast, 75% of them stated that their spouse or other family members also worked for the plantation, and 51% claimed that they intended to stay and settle in Stung Treng. We interviewed a rubber plantation manager who estimated that approximately 5% to 10% of tappers eventually save enough to buy land. Our data suggested that approximately 13% were able to buy land in the Northeast (see Table 2
In addition to rubber tappers, there were approximately 49 households of farmers and others who had migrated to buy land on the periphery of the Sopheak Nika plantation (see Baird and Fox 2015 [20
]). We interviewed 16 people who reported that they were farmers and did not work for the rubber company and four people who reported doing various jobs such as selling products in the market (see Table 2
). These respondents reported an average household size of four members, which suggests a population of 210 additional migrants. Slightly more than half of these respondents reported buying land in the northeast, with a mean size of 1.35 ha per household. All but one of these households purchased their land in 2012. Three respondents reported that they use land that they do not own either encroaching on plantation land or borrowing from other people.
We estimate that when all the rubber currently planted in Stung Treng comes into production, it will require a labor force of approximately 20,000 new tappers. Family members will accompany most tappers. The combined population of rubber tappers, their families, and people who migrate to purchase farmland will increase the population of the province by about 30% over its 2008 population level. Therefore, in Northeast Cambodia, investments in industrial plantations will lead to a large increase in population density. The 1998 and 2008 Cambodian national censuses support this conclusion. The population in Sesan District grew at an annual rate of 4.52% during this period while the national annual population increase was only 1.59%. Many minorities in Sesan District have already lost significant amounts of land to economic land concessions and settlers and the situation could become much worse.
We also interviewed the managers of three rubber plantations. All three companies are Cambodian-owned because it was easier for our Cambodian collaborators to gain access to these plantations than those owned by Chinese or Vietnamese investors. The managers agreed that they do not generally employ ethnic minorities from the local villages because such people do not want to work full-time and they want to be paid daily or weekly instead of monthly. Therefore, almost all of their tappers are migrants from elsewhere in Cambodia. They use similar word-of-mouth methods to obtain new laborers by relying on tappers to recruit friends and relatives from their home villages. While they all agree that ideally it is best to employ one tapper per hectare of trees, they were only employing one tapper per three or four ha. They cited two reasons for this. First, rubber prices fell drastically between 2011 and early 2017 and rubber is only marginally profitable or even loses money. In spite of this, the government requires the plantations to continue to plant more rubber trees every year in order to meet the obligation that all concessions utilize the land they were granted. When the plantations start tapping these trees in six to seven years, latex supplies will grow. The law of supply and demand suggests that, when supply grows, prices may fall further. The second reason they do not employ more tappers is that tappers are not available. With the growth of industrial plantations as well as textile and other industries, labor is becoming increasingly scarce. They all agreed that when they finish planting all rubber concession land and begin to tap it, they will face a labor shortage. As in the Red River Delta, labor scarcity is a growing issue that will affect future land-use changes.
In Tboung Khmum Province, we interviewed people living in Tmor Pech Commune in Tbuong Khmum District and people living in Toul Shope Commune in Ou Reang Ov District (see Table 2
). In this province, most households reported farming as their main source of income. Additionally, six households reported diverse activities such as selling ice, meat, and vegetables in the market, fishing, and working for a logging company, while nine households reported tapping rubber. As in Sesan District, the Sopheak Nika Investment Agro-Industry Company manages the rubber plantations in Ou Reang Ov and Tboung Khmum Districts (the Chub Rubber Plantation formerly managed these lands). The average interviewee in Tboung Khmum was 48 years old while, in Stung Treng, there was a much younger population with a mean age of 35. The tappers in Tboung Khmum did not own any land or houses (as opposed to 100% of the farmers who owned land and 85% who owned houses).
As in the Northeast, it is clear that rubber tappers in Tboung Khmum are poorer than farmers or people who do not work for the rubber plantation. In general, however, young people from all types of families (farmers, tappers, and others) are leaving the province to seek their fortunes elsewhere. Approximately 24% of the households we interviewed had family members working in Thailand, 10% had family members working in factories elsewhere in Cambodia, and 31% had family members working in Northeast Cambodia (see Table 2
). It is not possible to tell whether young people are leaving Tboung Khmum because of push or pull factors. In household interviews, we heard that young people went to work in Bangkok (mainly in construction), Phnom Penh (mainly women to work in garment factories), and Kampong Cham (to work in services). In addition, young people from all types of households went to the northeast to work on the plantations or related jobs. Everyone who spoke of moving to the northeast (whether they were farmers, tappers, or others) expressed an interest in buying land, but only 50% of farmers, 22% of tappers, and 16% of others had actually managed to do so. Approximately 40% of households sent income earned in Northeast Cambodia to someone else. Recipients used this income almost exclusively for meeting household needs.