Assessment of governance mechanism, livelihood outcomes and incentive Instruments for green Rubber in the Lao PDR

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Over the past decade, rubber cultivation has expanded throughout the Mekong region, from established centers of production in Thailand, China and Vietnam to new sites in Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia. Rubber has brought opportunities for increased incomes and livelihood improvement as well as social and environmental risks. The 2012 drop in rubber prices has sent the sector into disarray, halting the expansion of rubber and constraining the ability of farmers and companies to profit. This study examines how rubber production in the Lao PDR is governed, especially the soci-ecological dynamics of varying forms of production: smallholding, contract farming and large-scale estate plantations. Based upon an analysis of secondary literature and interviews with key stakeholders, it was found that rubber production in the Lao PDR is for the most part not ‘green,' meaning that it has not reduced poverty and protected ecosystem services and forested areas. The price crash has prevented most smallholding farmers from increasing their income. Wages on large-scale plantations have been low and only a limited amount of work for Lao people is available. Large-scale estates have been developed on land expropriated from communities and have replaced forested areas that provide important ecosystem services to local communities. The paper argues that if rubber is to be truly green, then significant changes to production and trade must be made, including minimum price supports from the state, appropriate land use planning measures, the establishment of cooperatives, the protection of community land rights, and the implementation of agroforestry rubber production models.

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