Rural Credit Policies in Southeast Asia’s Agrarian Transition

Authors: W. Nathan Green*, National University Of Singapore, Ian G. Baird, University of Wisconsin - Madison, Jefferson Fox, East-West Center
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Agricultural Geography, Development
Keywords: rural credit, rice agriculture, agrarian transition, Southeast Asia
Session Type: Virtual Paper
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This paper examines how agrarian transitions have been shaped by rural credit policies across rice-growing areas of mainland Southeast Asia. In the past twenty years, rice farmers in this region have intensified cultivation through varied combinations of increased mechanization, multiple-cropping, high-yield seed varietals, and chemical inputs. Access to agricultural credit has also grown significantly during this time, partly to finance the costs of intensification. However, how farmers access credit differs widely due to national-level policy. Thailand and Vietnam have both provided state-subsidized credit to smallholder farmers, whereas Cambodia has outsourced credit provision to private microfinance institutions and agricultural merchants. In Laos, there is no state credit for smallholder farmers, and access to credit from private institutions remains limited. This raises the question: How have national-level rural credit policies led to varied outcomes of rice intensification in the region? The paper begins to answer this question by briefly describing the policy of rural financial landscapes before presenting data related to credit usage among surveyed sites. This data comes from a household survey carried out by a team of researchers in six rice-growing areas of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam in 2019. The paper finishes by explaining the ways that different policies related to credit contribute to, but do not determine, the variation of rice intensification observed in the research sites. By drawing connections between policy and changing agricultural practices, this research advances geographic scholarship concerned with the role of rural credit in agrarian transitions.

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