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Impacts of Resettlement on Women’s Land Tenure Security in Lao PDR

With support of a grant from Resource Equity,  Social Development Alliance Association  conducted research titled “Impacts of Resettlement on Women’s land Tenure Security in Lao PDR. This research was commissioned as part of Resource Equity’s initiative to support new research and evidence on the question of the effectiveness of land tenure reforms to improve women’s lives.

Lao PDR is centering the energy sector as a major driver of economic growth and is pursuing aggressive land use and administration reforms. Hydropower is a key component of the government’s plan to achieve near universal electrification and its development plan includes 429 hydropower projects by 2030. The 8th National Social Economic Development Plan called for a national master plan on land use, comprehensive land allocation in 18 provinces across the country, a target of issuing 400,000 land titles, and computerization of at least 500,000 land titles. The hydropower projects also present important land management concerns and tenure issues because they will require resettlement of between 100,000 – 280,000 people.

Women’s land rights and livelihood systems are closely related to customary gender-based power systems. In the matrilineal Lao-Tai (Tai-Kadai language group) villages, inheritance customs follow the female lineage. The system of matrilineal kinship and inheritance and matrilocal post-marriage residence give women rights to land directly independent of their male relatives or husbands. In the patrilineal Akha (Sino-Tibet), Lue (Tai-Kaidai), Hmong (Hmong-Mien), and Khmou (Mon-Khmer) villages, inheritance customs follow the male lineage, and women only have rights to use to land through marriage. Only sons can inherit land from their father/parents and divorce can result in loss of access to household land for women.

This paper assesses resettlement, land laws and policies, and related safeguards in seven representative resettlement villages from four large scale hydropower projects to determine how effective they are in ensuring gender equitable results.

Key Findings

Data was collected through questionnaires, interviews, and group discussions to compare conditions between original and resettlement villages. Following resettlement, households generally held more property such as vehicles, phones, TVs, and radio. There were also small increases in the inclusion of the wife’s name on the title of marital property. Livelihood support also improved the income of many families, but there are also a range of respondents who received only minimal or no livelihood support. However, the wage gap between genders increased in the new villages, likely due to the different gendered focus of livelihood support. Further, the size of the plots of land were generally smaller and of poor quality and viewed as insufficient for subsistence agricultural activities. Additionally, there was significant dissatisfaction about the perceived minimal monetary compensation for loss of land and the  inability to access financing to rebuild. Finally, respondents revealed that tenure security concerns remain common particularly with female respondents in patrilineal communities regarding death or divorce of a spouse.

To read more about the research and outcomes, access the full paper here.

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*The 8th National Social Economic Development Plan


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