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“Nothing Is Like It Was Before”: The Dynamics between Land-Use and Land-Cover, and Livelihood Strategies in the Northern Vietnam Borderlands

Land uses are changing rapidly in Vietnam’s upland northern borderlands. Regional development platforms such as the Greater Mekong Subregion, state-propelled market integration and reforestation programs, and lowland entrepreneurs and migrants are all impacting this frontier landscape. Drawing on a mixed methods approach using remote sensing data from 2000 to 2009 and ethnographic fieldwork, we examine how land-use and land-cover change (LULCC) has occurred across three borderland provinces—Lai Châu, Lào Cai and Hà Giang—with high proportions of ethnic minority semi-subsistence farmers. After a broad examination of regional land-use changes, we select three case studies to further analyze the underlying relationships between specific LULCC and local livelihood diversification strategies. These include specific patterns of urban growth due to a range of political decisions in Lai Châu and Lào Cai Provinces; reforestation due to non-timber forest (NTFP) product cultivation in the west of Lào Cai Province; and a stable landscape that restricts government attempts at refashioning upland livelihoods in the east of Hà Giang. Our findings point to the difficulties of completing LULCC maps for this highly heterogeneous region and the complexity of LULCC and livelihood interactions and relationships examined on the ground.

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Additional Info

Field Value
Document type Reports, journal articles, and research papers (including theses and dissertations)
Language of document
  • English
  • Ethnic minorities and indigenous people
  • Land classifications
  • Livelihood rights
  • Urban development trends
Geographic area (spatial range)
  • Viet Nam
Copyright Yes
Access and use constraints

© 2015 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution license (

Version / Edition 1.0
License CC-BY-SA-4.0

Sarah Turner, Department of Geography, McGill University, 805 rue Sherbrooke Ouest, Montréal, QC H3A 0B9, Canada E-Mail:; Tel.: +1-514-398-4955.

Co-author (individual) Sarah Turner and Thi-Thanh-Hiên Pham
ISSN number 2073-445X
Publication place Switzerland
Publisher Land
Publication date 2015
Pagination 30
General note

Land 2015, 4, 1030-1059; doi:10.3390/land4041030

Keywords land use and land cover,Livelihood diversification,cardamom
Date uploaded March 8, 2018, 09:01 (UTC)
Date modified March 8, 2018, 09:03 (UTC)