Commercial timber plantations and community livelihoods: Insights from comparative case studies in southern Laos

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    The social impacts of industrial wood plantations (IWP) in Southeast Asia are extensively contested. Whilst productive, well-managed IWPs can offer a range of benefits to broader societies, they have also been criticised as driving community displacement and economic marginalisation. There is benefit to comparative case studies that identify the conditions whereby IWPs can support improved rural well-being. This paper assesses changes in resource tenure and livelihoods following plantation establishment in three selected case communities in southern Laos, using a rural appraisal approach. The study finds that IWPs can contribute positively to local livelihoods in Laos, under conditions. These occur when sufficient land is reserved for diversified land uses; local people secure plantation employment; there is adequate compensation for formal and informal land claims; and there are tangible contributions to village infrastructure and development. The availability plantation wage labour alone was found to be inadequate for driving broad livelihood improvement. Fieldwork identified the lingering negative social impacts of uncompensated land dispossession. Assessments of realised community benefits of plantation schemes should be considered in relation to the increasing underlying value of forest-lands in Laos. The paper provides updated policy options for an improved balance between stakeholder interests in Laos' strategic plantation sector.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalForest Policy and Economics
    Publication statusPublished - 2024

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