HA NOI (VNS)— Impassioned representatives from ethnic groups living in poor and vulnerable communities have voiced their opinions about land management at a series of public consultations on Viet Nam's land law.
Over 1,300 people from 22 communes in the widespread provinces of Hoa Binh, Yen Bai, Quang Binh and Long An have taken part in the sessions, organised by Oxfam and the National Assembly's Institute for Legislative Studies and held between October 2012 and February 2013.
Speaking about the outcomes of the discussions at a workshop held here yesterday, Professor Nguyen Quang Tuyen from Ha Noi Law University, a member of the consultation project, said that major problems had been revealed in land use planning, land policies for ethnic people, land withdrawals and compensation and resettlement agreements.
"People are not being informed clearly about land-use plans in their areas and what to expect," he said, adding that local people often felt separated from the development project planning stages.
|Illustrative image.—File Photo
Tuyen stressed that poorly-developed plans were continuing to cause difficulties for people in many areas and a lack of clarity is affecting their daily lives by restricting activities such as repairing, extending or selling their homes.
He acknowledged that compensation agreement policies for land are also not clear enough and have caused problems for people in some areas.
Ho Thi Con, a resident of central Quang Binh Province's Truong Son District, said that it is too simplistic for people to think purely in financial terms. "People say our land is worth gold, but gold is a metal that we cannot eat. We need land to grow crops so that we will have food."
She added that the women from her Van Kieu ethnic group already struggled to earn a living due to a shortage of land for cultivation.
At present, State-owned forest farms occupy 96 per cent of the commune's land. In 2007, the commune asked the local authority to allocate 3,100 hectares of land for local residents. Four years later, 2,100 hectares were provided to them, but it was far from their homes and on steep slopes making farming extremely difficult.
"The Government gave us rice to make ends meet, but what we really need is land which can help us earn our living by ourselves," Con said. "Without land, how can we live a sustainable and law abiding life?"
"Many people from ethnic groups in mountainous areas rely on farming, and now they are short of land for cultivation," said Tuyen.
He added that farms owned by the State were making matters worse by failing to make sufficient use of the large area of land they owned, causing local anger and disputes.
He argued that in these cases the land should be given to people with a real need to cultivate.
"We need regulations about local participation in land management so that people can have their say about how land should be used and how a fair price can be determined for it," he stressed.
Vice Director of the Institute for Legislative Studies Hoang Van Tu praised the public consultation process and said that the findings were really useful for giving people at the grassroots level a voice heard by law-makers, thus helping them to exercise their rights.
Oxfam's Associate Country Director, Bert Maerten, said that through an inclusive and participative process, people shared their experiences and aspirations pertaining to land and the revision of the 2003 land law.
"Land provides the food they eat, the produce they sell, the opportunities to diversify and expand livelihoods," he said.
"Lack of, and especially loss of land, can push households deeper or back into poverty. Land conversion without consultation and consensus, without fair, timely and just compensation and support can result in destitution, resulting in the erosion of social stability," he pointed out. — VNS