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State of Land in the Mekong Region


The Mekong region – Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam – is in the midst of profound social and environmental change. Despite rapid urbanization, the region remains predominantly rural. More than 60 per cent of its population live in rural areas, and the vast majority of these people are engaged in agriculture.

Due to rapid growth of its agricultural sector, the Mekong region has become a global centre of production and trade for commodities such as rubber, rice, cassava, wood, sugar cane, and palm oil. Between 1996 and 2015, overall agricultural land in the Mekong region grew by 20 per cent, or around 9 million hectares.

Most of this expansion has occurred at the expense of the region’s natural capital – especially forests and other vegetation.The Mekong region at a tipping point?

While accelerated flows of global investment and the trade of land-intensive commodities have contributed to economic growth, the outcomes have been highly unequal: The benefits of development have largely accrued to the urban elite, while costs have largely been borne by the rural poor. Rural land relations are changing fundamentally, creating new insecurities for land tenure. The Mekong region may well be at a tipping point. Transformational change is crucial to sustainably address the needs of smallholders.

Data and information are a key prerequisite for understanding ongoing changes, informing more equitable and innovative decision-making, and monitoring the outcomes of decisions made. “State of Land in the Mekong Region” highlights key trends and changes in the Mekong region that dominate current land debates. In addition, it reflects on how these regional issues relate to global change processes. The report features contributions from world-leading experts from Asia, Europe, and the United States.

Ingalls, Micah; Diepart, Jean-Christophe; Truong, Nhu; Hayward, Daniel; Neil, Tony; Phomphakdy, Chanthavone; Bernhard, Rasso; Fogarizzu, Sinu; Epprecht, Michael; Nanhthavong, Vong; Vo, Dang Hung; Nguyen, Dzung; Nguyen, Phong Anh; Saphangthong, Thatheva; Inthavong, Chanthaviphone; Hett, Cornelia; Tagliarino, Nicholas (2018). State of Land in the Mekong Region. Bern, Switzerland and Vientiane, Lao PDR: Centre for Development and Environment, University of Bern, and Mekong Region Land Governance, with Bern Open Publishing

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