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on the ground in south east asia

Here are just a few of CNR’s projects happening on the ground in South East Asia.

(Click on any hotspot on the map to view work done in that region of the country).

Small Farmers and the Spread of Bird Flu

In Southeast Asian developing countries, small and backyard farmers keep over 90 percent of poultry flocks and play a critical role in the control of avian flu. Over the past five years, David Roland-Holst, adjunct professor of agriculture and resource economics, has conducted studies in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia that aim to improve the efficiency of policies for reducing disease risk, and also protect the livelihoods of small livestock producers. The research led to innovative strategies like health certification, micro-contracting, and text- message-based trading, which improve the product and market access for these smallholders.

Managing the Impact of Chinese Hydropower

Entomology professor Vince Resh has been conducting research with teams from Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia since 2000 to evaluate the ecological health of the Lower Mekong River. Their objective is to prepare management strategies and monitoring programs in response to the potential disruption of fish production, which an estimated 75 million people in the region depend upon, from the “Cascade of Hydropower” being built in the Yunnan province of China. This project includes construction of a 100-story dam, the largest in the world. Resh has also been working in Java with Indonesian alumni from the Beahrs Environmental Leadership Program to develop water-quality monitoring programs that can be done at the village level. (See “ELP Alum Wins Goldman Prize,” page 6.) 

Post-War Development in Burma

Kevin Woods, a graduate student in environmental science, policy, and management (ESPM), is studying the development of what he calls “ceasefire capitalism” in the wake of military operations targeting ethnic territories in northern Burma (Myanmar). He is looking at the ways that military government officials and Chinese businessmen make new alliances to create post-war, state-controlled landscapes.

Socionatural Histories of Trees and Tropical Territories

Henry Vaux Distinguished Chair of Forest Policy Nancy Peluso is working on a book about how ethnic and national identities and relevant territorial associations are produced through both violence and the law. She’s taking a feminist perspective on the socionatural histories of three key trees that are important in the West Borneo landscape: durian, an indigenous fruit tree; rubber, an imported cash crop; and Meranti, the trade name for several species of tropical “light hardwoods” that dominate the dipterocarps forests of this region. Each tree has its own political-economic history and cultural politics, and when their respective trajectories are compared, a nuanced and complex view of the “rainforest” landscape emerges. Peluso, an ESPM professor, argues that political and ethnic violence have been a key part of the history of each tree and, in turn, of local people’s social histories and identities.

The Politics of Mapping in Laos

Mike Dwyer, a graduate student in ESPM Professor Nancy Peluso's lab, is writing his dissertation is on the politics of mapping and land allocation in post-conflict Laos. Judgments are tied up with tensions between county and centralized governance and the rush of investors seeking concessions to grow rubber—again, largely for the China market.

Forest-Society Relations in Indonesia

ESPM Professor Nancy Peluso is also planning a restudy of the villages of Java and of the State Forestry Corporation that were the subjects of her 1992 book, Rich Forests, Poor People: Resource Control and Resistance in Java. A short reconnaissance visit in 2010 demonstrated that the ecology of the teak forests, the policies around growing teak, and the relative availability of a labor force had all changed since the fall of President Suharto in 1998 and the Asian economic crisis of the late 1990s. Peluso will be looking at the changing forest-society relations and what difference the forest makes in the forest villagers’ current livelihood strategies.

Agrarian Reforms in West Java

The history of forestry in West Java’s forest lands is quite different from that of the Central and East Java teak forests because of the province’s different colonial history and close proximity to Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital city. ESPM doctoral candidate Noer Fauzi Rachman, supported by a Mellon Dissertation writing fellowship, is finishing his dissertation this year on agrarian reforms in the region’s forests. His work explores the claims and practices of growing peasant movements in West Java and the counter-claims and counter-reforms being made by the State Forestry Corporation.

Chinese Mining Influences in Vietnam

ESPM doctoral candidate Jason Morris-Jung is writing his dissertation on the social milieu in Vietnam in regard to Chinese investment and management of a controversial bauxite mine. Bauxite is the main ore of aluminum. Because the mining concession is held by Chinese capital and the tailings from the mines are being dumped not far from a major Vietnamese river used for drinking water supplies, Morris-Jung is finding that the mood in Vietnam, especially among intellectuals and activists, is conflicted.