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Centre for Development and Environment (CDE)

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Concessions and leases in the Lao PDR


Coffee Plantation, Paksong District, Champasack Province

The most comprehensive publication to date on land concessions and leases in Lao PDR has been unveiled. It shows that over 2,600 land-lease and concession agreements were granted covering a total of 1.1 million hectares of territory, or roughly 5% of Lao PDR’s land. Today, one out of five villages in the country is affected by these investments. They exceed the area used for wet rice production.
 
Land use patterns in Lao PDR are rapidly changing. The agribusiness, mining, hydropower, and forestry subsectors are growing as a result of both domestic and foreign-direct investments. Between 2000 and 2009, the number of land deals in Lao PDR increased fifty-fold. Such investments can contribute to infrastructure development, poverty alleviation, and economic productivity. Too intensive investments, however, have also generated a range of impacts that are under scrutiny by the Lao government together with its development partners.
 
CDE assist Lao PDR in data collection
The State Land Leases and Concessions Inventory represents a globally unique and extremely valuable database from various perspectives. It contains the spatially explicit data and is the first systematic inventory that allows for visualising and analysing the extent and dimensions of land-intensive investment across the entire country. The land concession inventory is the result of a trilateral cooperation between the Lao government, Switzerland, and Germany. Representatives from the three partners jointly introduced the document published by MoNRE, the Centre for Development and Environment (CDE), the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).
 
More land for concessions than for rice cultivation
The analysis focuses on 2,642 land deals which total 1.1 million hectares – roughly five per cent of the Lao PDR’s national territory. One out of five villages in the country is affected by these investments. They exceed the area used for wet rice production. Domestic investors hold a sizeable number of projects (1,705 or 65% of all projects), though domestic projects are on average almost ten times smaller than those under foreign investment. China, Thailand and Vietnam are the largest foreign investors, both in terms of the number of projects and area covered by these projects (617 deals or 23% of all deals, and 579,821 ha or 53% of all land under investment).
 
Investments in easy accessible areas
It becomes apparent that investments are made in rather accessible, but less in remote areas – a development that contradicts the Lao government’s objectives. Most area under investment (68%) occurs in the lowlands of the Lao PDR (below elevations of 500 masl). Sugarcane and Jatropha, in which Thai and South Korean investors are the most involved, cover vast areas (34,969 ha and 25,179 ha respectively) compared to other agricultural products, and are predominantly located in the South and Central regions where flat, productive agricultural lands are more abundant. 66% of tree plantations are located in the South, mostly under Vietnamese investment. Rubber is by far the dominant tree planted regardless of region or investor (with 225 deals covering 129,614 ha). Mining exploitation projects occur primarily in the North and Central regions.
 
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