Since the Doi Moi (Reform) era in 1986, rural development policies in Vietnam have followed a market-based development approach that only focused on the improving cumulative growth. The top-down bureaucratic structure in policy planning and implementation failed to engage the community and understand the realities of local contexts. As a result, farmers often find it more difficult to support their livelihoods on agriculture. Many rural areas continue to experience rising socio-economic inequalities, low human capital development, and lack of social infrastructures. At the same time, studies have shown that rural people also have different response strategies to protect and maintain their livelihoods. Combining field work and a wide range of primary and secondary sources, I contend that while rural development policies are implemented in a top-down process, they could also be influenced by livelihood strategies from the bottom up. I illustrate this through the implementation of the new National Target Program on New Rural Development (NTP-NRD) in a rural commune located in southeastern Vietnam. Although rural development policies fail to deliver thei promises, people in the commune manage to maintain their agricultural-based livelihoods by specialising in crops that are land and labour efficient. Their initiatives are then picked up by the local government as a pillar of success for the NTP-NRD, which paved the way for new development outcomes such as technology transfer and infrastructure improvement.
Yin Li, University of Sydney, Australia
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