Browsing by Subject "rural livelihoods"

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  • Sistonen, Sonja (Helsingfors universitet, 2017)
    In recent years, the Laos economy – driven by the primary sector – has been growing fast, however poverty remains widespread. Economic growth is also influencing the livelihoods of rural people who account for 61% of Lao population and depend highly on forests and environmental resources. Many studies address the role of NTFPs in rural livelihoods globally but the total contribution of forests and environmental resources, and the associated changes in their access and availability, have generally been neglected, also in Laos. The overarching research question of this study aims to determine how dependent rural Lao livelihoods are on forest and environmental products by estimating their contribution in total household income and food security. The other objectives are i) to find out which forest and environmental products households are the most dependent on, ii) to compare NTFPs and timber in their contribution to livelihoods, and iii) to learn how the access to, and the number of, forest products has changed in the past and whether they are expected to change in the future. The primary data used in this study was collected in Mahaxay District, Central Lao PDR in March 2016. Altogether 90 randomly selected households were interviewed using semi-structured surveys in three sample villages purposefully selected along a remoteness gradient. In addition, two focus group discussions (one male and one female) and one key informant interview were conducted in each village to collect village-level background information. It was found that the sample households rely heavily on forests and the environment, especially for food products. In the most remote village 80% of the households would not have had enough to eat without the contribution of NTFPs in their nutrition. On average forest and environmental products contributed to 12% of the cash income of the households interviewed. The cash-equivalent value of subsistence income from forest and environmental products is higher than that of cash income from their sales all three sample villages. There were significant differences between the villages: the poorest village was also the most dependent on forest products for both cash and subsistence income. NTFPs were remarkably more important than timber for both subsistence and cash income. Bamboo shoots, firewood and mushrooms were the most collected forest products. Fallow was the most important land-use type for forest and environmental product collection. There was a strong decrease in both access to forest products and their availability in the past five years, and most sample households also expected the trend of decline to continue into the future. The kind of reliance on forests and wild lands described in this study is threatened by population growth, deforestation and forest degradation associated with Laos’ rapid economic transition. The strong dependency of the rural Lao population on forest and environmental income should be considered also by the Lao government in the aim for green economic transition.
  • Makkonen, Eedla (Helsingin yliopisto, 2019)
    Laos is one of the poorest countries in South-East Asia. Rural people’s livelihoods are mostly reliant on rice production and collection of forest products. There is very little research available about large-scale tree plantations and agroforestry in Laos. However, there is a clear need for information about the livelihood of the local people affected by companies that lease land from the local rural population for large-scale plantations in Laos. Stora Enso (SE) has trial plantations in Laos that combine tree-growing and food production. The Stora Enso Village Program (SEVP) focuses on sustainability that includes community engagement and helping local villagers to farm in safe conditions. The main aim of this study was to assess the productivity of taungya agroforestry systems in the SEVP trial plantations, and to measure the socioeconomic impacts at the village and household level. The following research questions are addressed: 1. To describe the Stora Enso Village Program in Laos, 2. To evaluate the conditions of the plantations established by SE in six villages in Saravan and Savannakhet Provinces, 3. To evaluate the socioeconomic impacts of the village program at the household and village levels in terms of: i) What kind of incomes do the local families get? ii ) How have the agricultural activities, which are part of the taungya agroforestry system, affected plantation productivity? iii) Who is benefiting from Stora Enso’s “village program” and how? Six research villages were selected, including five villages where Stora Enso operates and one where the company does not operate. Biophysical plantation measurements were done in 28 study plots in five villages. Plantation production was measured from the trees in the taungya agroforestry areas in each village. In each trial village, the Village Head was interviewed about basic village information such as population, livelihood and geographic information. Two Focus Group Discussions were conducted in each village, with information about villagers’ livelihoods and changes to livelihoods after the SEVP was started in the village. Participatory mapping exercises were carried out to determine the location of the households in the villages for random household selection. Interviews were conducted in 15 households in each village (90 households in total) to gather household-specific information such as incomes, livelihood activities and experiences of the taungya agroforestry sites. Village crop production in the taungya agroforestry sites were estimated at the household level. Results showed that employment opportunities increased in the village mostly in the first years of plantation cycle. The villagers were pleased with the land preparation carried out by Stora Enso and the crop yield in agroforestry areas, however, this was limited to when the plantation trees were smaller. Lack of labour, shade from plantation trees, and long distances to the plantation areas were the main reasons why villagers did not use the plantation areas for crop production. Plantations were generally in good condition, however, there were some insect and other stem damages. Lack of agricultural machinery and big distances from households to the agroforestry areas led to variation between villages´ crop production. There was limited work available for the villagers who wanted to work. The key findings of this thesis highlight the benefits of extra incomes and work opportunities for the local people in the villages and the positive outcomes in terms of the SEVP funds being used to build infrastructure and schools for the villages. The result of the study shows that the location of the villages affected negatively on villages that were far away from the market place and had limited possibilities to sell surplus crops. Cash crop production only occurred in the villages near the main roads and markets. Long distance to the taungya agroforestry area also limited the usage of the areas. This study has shown how the SEVP provides some benefits at both the village level and the household level. At the village level - positive impacts from village fund include improved infrastructure such as roads, water systems and electricity, while at the household level, positive impacts include employment opportunities and support to grow crops in the taungya agroforestry system. However, there are also challenges and limitations, such as agroforestry potential for producing crops between tree rows are not fully utilized during tree rotation, and most of the plantation employment opportunities are only available in the first years of plantation establishment. The SEVP is a trial program that attempts to integrate local communities’ needs by producing food and cash crops in the plantation area. The concept needs further development, more trials and research to improve the system, but has potential to be replicated in other places. It needs to be designed to suit the specific context of the local communities according to local culture and needs.
  • Anderzén, Janica (Helsingfors universitet, 2015)
    A plant disease called coffee rust, caused by a fungus (Hemileia vastatrix), swept across coffee lands of Central America and Mexico in 2012. It turned into the most severe coffee rust epidemic ever experienced in the region, having serious impacts on coffee farmers livelihoods. The aim of this Master s thesis was to gain knowledge of small-scale coffee farmers perceptions of coffee rust and their responses to it. These farmers belong to Maya Vinic coffee cooperative of indigenous smallholders operating in Chiapas, Mexico. This case study applied an ethnographically-oriented livelihoods approach, influenced by Participatory Action Research (PAR). The data was gathered between March and May 2014, and consists of 24 semi- structured interviews, informal discussions, and observations. In analyzing the data, a modified version of Frank Ellis Framework for Livelihood Analysis was utilized. This study found that all the farmers had some knowledge about coffee rust, and they perceived the epidemic as a major livelihood shock. Coffee rust was causing damage to farmer households central livelihood asset, coffee trees, leading to crop losses and a decline in the annual income. A drop in income compelled many households to cut back on consumption goods and basic food expenditure, and was likely to affect their capacity to invest in productive assets. The situation caused anxiety and confusion among farmers. The results show that despite of the heightened risk of crop losses in the forthcoming production cycles, coffee farmers were determined to continue with coffee production. The control methods they were applying, such as different cultural methods, aimed at securing the role of coffee farming as a key livelihood activity also in the future. Alternative livelihood activities seemed to have less importance in coping with the epidemic. These findings suggest that not only economic but also cultural and social factors play an important role in livelihood construction. The findings further show that certain forms of capital may either hinder or facilitate households efforts to cope with coffee rust. In particular, limited landholdings ( natural capital ), and constrained access to different sources of information and education ( human capital ) proved to be limiting factors, while membership in Maya Vinic ( social capital ) helped to buffer negative impacts of the epidemic, and prepare for the future. This study suggests that stakeholders perceptions and the notion of social capital deserve more attention in different livelihood approaches. It also calls for more research and cross-sectoral initiatives which would aim at assisting small-scale coffee farmers in coping with coffee rust. These efforts should be keyed to work on climate change adaptation.