[ndlr] Message de Jean Michaud paru initialement sur VSG et reproduit sur Mémoires d’Indochine avec son aimable autorisation.
This to congratulate Richard Owens who has recently defended successfully his PhD dissertation in social anthropology at University of Georgia (USA) titled “Measuring smallholder land investments in Northwest Vietnam: A cross-cultural study of three highland villages in Phỏng Lái commune, Sơn La province.”
His abstract states:
“In this dissertation, I investigate the connection between land tenure and the conservation of natural resources in the northwestern uplands of Vietnam (Son La province) through a focus on the political and economic forces that shape smallholder investment practices. Within a historically-informed context, I analyze and compare smallholder land use decisions among Kinh, Hmong, and Thai groups considering identity, cultural practices, and household economics. Recently, Vietnam has banned swidden agriculture in favor of the intensification of upland agriculture. To that purpose, it has provided technology, subsidies, and extension services targeted to lowland majority development models.
During the course of this dissertation, I analyze soil conservation activities in three villages (between and within designs) and across the commune at the household level. Results from investment activities (short-term, long-term and household rate categories) show that smallholders’ long-term investments are significantly smaller in relation to household investments. I contend that there are a number of social, economic, and environmental reasons for why Hmong, Thai and Kinh are not making significant soil conservation investments. State polices aimed at suppressing swidden agriculture have been replaced with intensive upland farming, leading to increased erosion and land degradation. Traditional swidden systems do not require inputs, hence they are not receiving long-term investments. Upland farming is possible through the use of inorganic fertilizers that are necessary for HYV maize production. Examining the failure of the property rights to conserve natural resources this research makes a significant contribution to the theory of property rights This study considers the socio-cultural and economics dynamics of land title and natural resource management. “
What I would also like to stress about Richard’s work is that he finds that ethnicity matters when locals get to assess economic opportunities and make strategic choices. The Hmông and Thái ways, he finds, are distinct from the Kinh’s and express different views on modernity, identity and aspirations. His research thus dovetails nicely with other recent dissertations based in rural communities of the northern highlands stressing that these non-Kinh societies show creativity and pro-activity in the course of their social and symbolic reproduction, such as (among others) Jennifer Sowerwine (Berkeley 2004), Bent Jørgensen (Göteborg 2006), Tran Hong Hanh (Freie U. Berlin 2006), Christine Bonnin (McGill 2011), Achariya Choowonglert (Chiang Mai 2012), Ho Ngoc Son (ANU 2012), and O’Briain (Sheffield 2012).
Département d’Anthropologie / Université Laval (Québec)