Towards responsible agricultural investment in Lao PDR: A study of agribusiness experiences

Justine Sylvester

In 2017, a research team documented diverse experiences of agricultural investments in Lao PDR (Laos), as part of a study commissioned by the Global Programme on Responsible Land Policy, implemented by GIZ on behalf of the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The study sought to identify factors for making agricultural investments more sustainable in the Lao context, and to examine the extent to which international guidance shapes interactions between the various stakeholders, especially local communities. In particular, the team examined agricultural investment in Laos with regards to the 2012 Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests within the Context of National Food Security (VGGT), and the 2014 Principles for Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems (CFS Principles). The study team selected six agricultural investments across Laos. Recognising the lack of private sector perspectives in most literature in Laos, this study gathered information directly from six agribusinesses, including: • Two Chinese rubber companies, Thaijieng Rubber Company and Yunnan Natural Rubber Company, in Luang Namtha province; • Mitr Lao Sugar Company, a Thai sugar and energy (biofuels) company in Savannakhet province; • Yee Nong Banana Company, a Chinese-owned banana company, in Sayaboury province; • Thongtai Trade Company, a joint Lao-Chinese mango and pomelo (mak pook) plantation, in Sayaboury province; and • Stora Enso Laos, a subsidiary of a Swedish-Finnish pulp and packaging company with eucalyptus plantations in Savannakhet and Salavan provinces. To capture a diverse mix of experiences, agribusiness selections were based on geographical factors (southern and northern Laos), land arrangements (contract farming, non-state land leasing, state land concession1, and mixed arrangements), amounts of capital invested (where this information was available), and country of origin of the investors. Access to the investment sites was facilitated by the GIZ Land Program in Laos, and the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI). Interviews were conducted with relevant government representatives at national, province and district levels, as well as with communities impacted by the investments, company representatives, and civil society organisations (CSOs) working on land-related issues in Laos.

Event: Land Governance in an Interconnected World_Annual World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty_2018

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