Improved Land Management in the Mekong Region

Project description

Title: Improved Land Management in the Mekong Region
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Countries: Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Viet Nam
Overall term: 2015 to 2019



In recent years in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Viet Nam, land and land-use rights have been withdrawn from a large number of small-scale farmers, with the lands in question subsequently being given as concessions to domestic and foreign investors without adequate compensation. These expropriations of land have particularly affected marginal groups, such as ethnic minorities, who were forced to resettle or migrate, leading to the loss of livelihoods and consequentially to poverty and malnutrition, as well as the disintegration of communities.

This project, which Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH is implementing on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), is a contribution to the overarching Mekong Region Land Governance Project (MRLG) of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). The larger programme addresses land access issues. Programme activities are geared particularly towards the interests of ethnic minorities and women.


The living conditions of smallholder farmers and ethnic minorities in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Viet Nam have improved. Capacities of change agents and their networks are strengthened to conceptualise and implement targeted sub-projects and to exchange and develop approaches for land rights advocacy and conflict resolution.



The SDC approach involves working with change agents – either individuals or organisations – who can champion reform and initiate change processes in the four countries. The change agents must have the experience, mandate and status that enables them to deliver results. They include national and international NGOs, other associations and organisations, government institutions at the national and sub-national levels, parliamentarians, research institutions and universities, private sector and media representatives, and other significant individuals.

These agents are tasked with initiating important change processes. By supporting cross-sector and cross-border exchanges, the programme will foster a broader understanding and the implementation of innovative, meaningful and effective land governance activities and policies. Multi-stakeholder networks are promoted to enhance shared learning and dialogue among these stakeholders. The programme funds pilot measures and research aimed at providing best practice examples and to enable the change agents to drive forward the reform agenda.

GIZ contributes to a Quick Disbursement Fund and an Innovation Fund. The Quick Disbursement Fund provides support at short notice for urgent actions, such as addressing situations that directly threaten the access to land of family farmers, women and ethnic minorities. Additionally, it can influence emerging land governance agendas and encourage a more positive policy environment at regional, national or local levels. The Innovation Fund allows for development and piloting, analysis and sharing of experiences from sub-projects managed by stakeholders, each with a longer-term perspective of up to two years.



The project is a contribution to the overarching Mekong Region Land Governance Project (MRLG). All achievements of the MRLG project are the result of a coordinated and combined effort of all donors and implementers involved. Programme achievements include:

  • A growing network of more than 110 organisations from government, civil society, academia and private sector across the Mekong Region is actively engaged with MRLG in collective learning activities aimed at equitable and secure access to land and natural resources for family farmers.
  • Networking and learning exchanges have been facilitated through 11 country-level and six regional-level multi-stakeholder consultation events that brought together over 1,400 representatives across more than 200 organisations, agencies and projects in the Mekong region.
  • The project is funding 42 grant projects and coordinating 20 learning and alliance-building initiatives to address key thematic areas that enable and support reform actors to bring about change in land governance policies and practices.

Change agents supported by MRLG achieved the following results:            

  • In Myanmar, a two-year paralegal training and advocacy project has strengthened capacities and raised awareness on land right issues, supporting a network of paralegals. The network has taken up 165 land dispute cases with 4,206 clients (21 per cent women) and covering 8,364 hectares of disputed land. Out of the 165 cases, 25 have been resolved.
  • In Viet Nam, local authorities have improved practices in recognising women’s land rights as provided under the 2013 Viet Nam Land Law, focusing activities on ethnic communities in Northern Viet Nam. Nine legal aid events were organised successfully in nine communes attended by 1,354 community members (mostly women). Through these events, legal specialists and communal land officers supported 245 clients and their cases.
  • The Cambodia Land Dispute Independent Mediation (CLAIM) Project was successful in securing commitments from indigenous communities and from the private land concession investor to engage in a mediation process to resolve their long-standing land conflict. This represents a significant step towards establishing an acceptable process for independent land conflict mediation in Cambodia.
  • In Laos, the Land Learning Initiative for Food Security Enhancement (LIFE) project has qualified local government officials and grass-roots civil society staff to support smallholder farmers to effectively negotiate contract farming arrangements. This helps in negotiating fair contracts and higher selling prices. LIFE has reached more than 110 villages and over 10,000 participants (50 per cent women, majority from ethnic minorities).

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