Behind the cash-crop curtain: Diverse livelihood strategies of ethnic minority cinnamon cultivators in upland Vietnam

Authors: Melie Monnerat*, McGill University
Topics: Asia, Ethnic Geography, Food Systems
Keywords: livelihood studies; cinnamon; cash crop farmers; commodity chains; Vietnam; ethnic minorities
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 45
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Hmong and Yao ethnic minority groups, who for the most part live in the Vietnam northern uplands, rely on diverse semi-subsistence practices to build sustainable livelihoods, while adapting to new market opportunities and Vietnamese socialist state’s agricultural transition and market integration policies. A range of non- timber forest products (NTFPs) have become an increasingly important element in the livelihoods of some of these minority households. One such NTFP is cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia), a high priced NTFP on the global market, now increasingly being grown by ethnic minority farmers in Vietnam’s northern Yên Bái province. Despite the sizeable potential cash influx from this NTFP for local livelihoods, surprisingly little research has been conducted on cinnamon commodity chains originating from these uplands. Drawing conceptually from livelihood studies and commodity chain literatures, I intend to answer the question: how is the cultivation of cinnamon integrated into ethnic minority livelihoods in the Vietnam uplands? Preliminary results from my field research among cinnamon farmer’s communities reveal significant changes in livelihood practices including a transition from semi-subsistence composite livelihood practices to cash-crop oriented agriculture. Moreover, some farmers are beginning to position themselves at other nodes along the cinnamon commodity chains. The impacts of such changes are only just beginning to be revealed.

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