Gender Sensitive GIS Mapping
Gender Sensitive GIS Mapping of Livelihoods and Vulnerability of Thai Ethnic minority Group to Land Dispossession in Northwest Vietnam
Summary of Goals and Objectives
The project addresses the gender-sensitive issues of land dispossession, livelihoods, and vulnerability of Thai and Khmu ethnic minority people in Dien Bien Province, Northern Vietnam. The expansion of rubber plantation in the non-traditional areas of mountainous Vietnam has affected the land access and livelihoods of local communities, while expected benefits have not been yielded yet. Women are among the most affected by by the loss of livelihoods, making them more dependent on their male relatives. In addition, rubber monoculture can be associated with disaster risks and environmental issues: erosion, droughts, and pollution of streams from herbicide uses. The objectives of the project are:
- To better understand gender-sensitive control and access to forest land and water resources due to land dispossession in rubber plantation communities;
- To enhance the capacity of vulnerable Thai women and men for spatial understanding in order to improve their access and control over forest land and water resources through participatory GIS mapping.
- To provide training workshops that improve the capacities of the policy makers and the relevant stakeholders at the district and the provincial level.
To meet the objectives, the activities undertaken would include (based on the Implementation Plan):
A1. Start-up workshop and preparation:
- A1.1. To collect baseline data, which includes topography, land use, land cover, socioeconomic data, and demographic data in project sites.
- A1.2-A1.4. To conduct the first workshop and field trip for addressing the scope of the project to provincial and local authorities and obtaining more detailed information for data validation.
A2. Field survey
- A2.1 – A2.2. To prepare fieldwork plans and design survey tools: The second fieldwork focused on design of sets of questionnaires and conduct interviews with key informants, household surveys and focus group discussions to identify the gaps in spatial understanding of vulnerable Thai women and men, changes in their access to and control over forest land as well as water resources caused by rubber plantations.
- A2.2 – A2.6. To conduct field survey, data analysis and field report.
B. Training and participatory GIS mapping
- B1. To plan a training program after data is collected and analyzed, taking gender sensitivity and labor force into consideration.
- B2. To conduct the third fieldwork to organize training workshops and participatory GIS mapping based on collected baseline and satellite data. This activity provided the basic knowledge for both men and women on spatial mapping and helped them to define their access to forest land and water resources; and to understand the adverse impacts caused by monoculture rubber plantation on their surrounding areas. This activity also paid attention to gender sensitivity to GIS in both training and mapping. Participatory GIS mapping involved not only the Thai ethnic people, but also provincial, district and commune cadres and other relevant stakeholders to ensure their engagement and the undisputed result of forest land and water resource map.
- B3. To complete training report.
- C1. To produce the final map of forest land and water resources based on participatory GIS mapping.
- C2 – C4. To organize a dissemination workshop on spatial information for policy makers and relevant stakeholders for finalizing the project with products and experience sharing.
- C5. To prepare Final Report.
- C6. To participate in the Knowledge Transfer Workshop.
Summary of Achievements
Activity A1. Start-up workshop and preparation
Baseline data, including background information on land use, land cover, socioeconomic, and demography of the project sites in Dien Bien Province, were collected prior to and during the first and second field trip. A part of the data were inherited from our previous project in Dien Bien. The rest of baseline data were provided by the local authorities, including the provincial, district and commune-level People’s Committee and the Dien Bien Provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD).
A start-up workshop was organized on September 13th, 2017 in Dien Bien city. There are around 25 participants, including the representatives DARD, Provincial Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DONRE), Dien Bien Rubber Corporation, ass well as district and commune People’s Committees. In this workshop, CECAD introduced the project objectives and activities to the local stakeholders. The participants were then facilitated to discuss and give opinions on the project plan and implementation. They also provided useful information and reflections regarding the rubber expansion and the gendered livelihoods and vulnerability of Thai and Khmu ethnic minority people. Different participants have different viewpoints on the impacts of rubber plantation and the gender issues. For example, the representative of DARD views the rubber expansion project more positively, claiming that it still has huge potentials for supporting local social-economic development. Meanwhile, the commune representative expressed his doubtful opinion that the economic benefits from rubber plantation are still not achieved, and ethnic minority women and girls are more impacted by the loss of land access.
We have encountered significant difficulties at the start of the project, especially in obtaining the approval of provincial authorities. As the topics (related to land and GIS mapping) are sensitive, especially for a boundary province like Dien Bien, it took more than two months to get the project accepted by the Dien Bien Provincial Department of Public Security. This has delayed most of the milestones of the project later on.
Activity A2. Field survey
Household survey questionnaire, key informant interview, and questions for focus group discussion (FGD) were prepared in advance of the second field trip. The main aims of the field survey were: (i) to investigate the livelihoods and vulnerability of local Khmu and Thai ethnic people residing in rubber plantation area; (ii) to carry out a gendered assessment on access to land and water resources of indigenous women and men; and (iii) to study the participation of local people in forest management and decision-making processes.
The field work was carried out in December, 2017 in two communes Mường Pồn of Mường Cha district, and Mường Mươn of Dien Bien district in Dien Bien province. Some details of the activities are presented as follows:
- Household survey: on a sample of 103 households, including 52 households from Púng Giắt commune and 51 from Mường Pồn commune. The respondents were selected on a random basis, with the assistance of local village leaders. We have consulted the household lists provided by the village leaders to ensure the sufficient representation of both groups of female-headed and male-headed households.
- Key informant interviews: less than 20 key informants were interviewed. They were cadres from the Dien Bien Provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, People’s Committees of Dien Bien and Muong Cha districts, and Muong Pon and Muong Muong commune People’s Committees, heads of the two villages and head of the party cells of the two villages.
- Focus group discussions: Each meeting had around 15 participants, of which at least 40% were female. In each meeting, local men and women were encouraged to discuss and express their knowledge and opinions on issues related to livelihoods, related activities, land access, and forest resource use and management. The discussions were gender-sensitive, as female participants were guaranteed to have equal opportunities to voice their own knowledge and perceptions. Several tools were used to study different aspects of livelihoods and forest resource use and management, including:
- Seasonal calendar
- Venn’s diagram for institutional analysis
- Daily activity profile
- GIS field survey
The field survey for GIS and mapping was carried out by our GIS expert, with the assistance of local village members. The activities for field survey include:
- Mark the waypoint of residential clusters (where interviewed households reside) in the two villages Púng Giắt 2 and Mường Pồn 2.
- Mark the GPS location with photos taken at some main watercourses (which support most water to the households for domestic purposes): Hòa Ta stream (Mường Pồn 2) and Huổi Luông stream (Púng Giắt 2).
- Mark the GPS location with photos taken of the main swidden cultivation area (Huổi Chỏ) of Pơ Giắt 2 village, at the high point which allows the broad observation of the swidden fields.
- Locate the scope or path of the population’s activities based on locations of houses, fuelwood collection points, fish ponds, and water supply sources.
- Data analysis
Data were extracted and entered into SPSS program. Data were analyzed using several statistics methods such as comparison tests, correlation tests and correspondence analysis. Both qualitative and quantitative data were analyzed to produce a thorough understanding of the livelihoods, vulnerability, land and water access, and forest management activities of Thai and Khmu men and women.
- Key findings
A total of 103 households were sampled. Some demographic information of the sample are shown in the following table.
|No. of members who lives in the households in recent 12 months
|No. of members whose names are on household registeration
|Average HH size
|Female to male ratio
|Average age of HH heads (years old)
|Female-headed HH (%)
|Education of HH heads (school years)
|Single-parenting HH (%)
|Ethnicity: Thai (49.5 %), Khmu (46.7 %), Kinh/Vietnamese (1.9 %)
|Religion: None/Folk religion (100%)
Some of the key findings from the data analysis include:
- Land certification (red books) has been withdrawn by the local authority for modification purpose. The exploitation of latex has been started since 2017, although no benefits have been given to the contributors.
- Land issues involve the loss of swidden fields for rubber, lack of land certification, and loss of farming lands due to landslides and erosion.
- Female-headed households generally have smaller income per capita than male-headed ones (p = 0.029), although there is no significant difference in land ownership.
- 100% of households use fuelwood as the main source of cooking fuel. Women and girls are responsible of collecting fuelwood in 85.3% of households interviewed. The average time dedicated for collecting fuelwood increased by 24% (8.01 hrs to 9.97 hrs per week) after rubber plantation.
- All of households use stream water, which are piped from some collection points to their home. The facilities of water storage were built and funded by the government in early 2000s. The effect of rubber plantation on domestic water supply is not clear based on the household interviews. However, in focus group discussions and participatory mapping, both groups have noted the status of contamination in streams in the areas near rubber plantation.
- 24 (23.3%) of the households had members with chronic or significant health issues. The most common diseases include: bone pain, hepatitis, kidney failure, spinal pain. All households have health insurance.
- Due to the culture of Thai and Khmu people, most of households have permanent/solid or semi-permanent houses (85.4%). Only 5 households (4.8%) lives in temporary houses.
- 72% of local communities notice some changes in local climate, 16% did not notice, and 16% have no response.
- Several main hazards include floods, pests and diseases, erosion/landslides, droughts & water scarcity, tornadoes, and heat wave. The impacts and years those hazards occurred were listed below:
|Type of hazards
|Loss of production, landslides, contamination, diseases
|2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2017
|Pests and diseases
|Loss of production, death of livestock
|Loss of farming lands
|2011, 2015, 2016
|Droughts & water scarcity
|Loss of production
|House and garden impars
|Loss of production
- Most households do not have plans to prepare or adapt to natural disasters. Only 14.71% (15 households) intend to upgrade the house quality, 6.86% have a plan to stockpile food and other necessities, 9.8% save money to cope with loss of income, and 2.94% (3 households) want to move to another safer location.
Activity B. Training and participatory GIS mapping
- Knowledge about climate change
Knowledge on the issues of climate change, its potential impacts, as well as necessary activities to reduce the adverse impacts and improve the adaptive capacity to climate change were presented to the participants.
During the discussion, the villagers of the two communes have exchanged their opinions regarding the issues. Some members talked about the adverse impacts of landslides and erosion, and how they led to the desertification of farm land. This makes the farmers struggle to find other farming areas. In combination with rubber plantation project, this leads to the reduction in the availability of agricultural land, thus affecting the local livelihoods. Some mentioned the potential impacts of climate change on water supply for agricultural and domestic uses. They said that because of changes in water quantity and quality due to upstream deforestation, rubber plantation, and potential climate change, the agricultural output in some areas are lower than the previous years. The participants agreed that men and women would be affected differently and have dissimilar capacity to fight against climate change. Some women admitted that they have fewer opportunities to actively participate into the decision-making related to climate change.
The heads of two villages claimed that protection forests are the major solution to mitigate climate change and its impacts. However, they said that the communities are quite aware of climate change, but have little knowledge and incentives to implement adaptation activities.
- Participatory mapping
The participants, divided into male and female groups, have been instructed to join participatory mapping at each village. Afterward, the participants have obtained better understanding on spatial distribution of their land, and able to pin-point important locations related to livelihoods and vulnerability. A series of maps were produced from based from the knowledge and participation of the local communities, and separated by gender group .
It is shown from the map and the presentation that male and female groups provided different results, thus reflecting the variation in their perceptions and activities. In Muong Pon 2 village, the men group only reported that the bare hills near residential area are more prone to landslides, while the nearby fields downstream rubber plantation are subjected to droughts. Meanwhile, women reported landslides occurred in farther areas, for example the valleys between rubber plantation hills. This is partly because women are hired more often by the Dien Bien rubber company, so they have better knowledge about the areas close to the rubber plantation. The men group, on the other hand, have recommended the development of fruits in some bare lands in between forests and rubber plantation. This could be attributed to the role of men in making decisions of livelihood activities. In Pung Giat 2 village, both men and women groups could identify water and fuelwood collection points, as well as areas for agriculture and livestock raising. However, the women group tended to be more specific about the sites at risk, which are prone to droughts and landslides.
All groups identified main water collection sites, and discussed the effect of rubber plantation on water quality and quantity. For example, in Muong Pon 2, both groups located the three main water collection points, from which all families pipe water to their home. They claimed that two of these points are partly contaminated by the uses of chemical inputs for rubber plantation as well as livestock grazing. The men group recommended the improvement of water collection facilities, including move one to be higher than the rubber plantation hills. Water scarcity rarely occurred, but in that case, villagers have to wait for few days until the water storage filled up or would go to farther points to collect water (mainly by women).
The gendered division of labor and time dedicated to livelihood and domestic tasks were partly shown due to the results of the participatory mapping. Men were most responsible for farming as well as making decisions like finding farming fields. Women were in charge of fuelwood collection, livestock grazing, and some are employed for the rubber company to oversee the rubber plantation. This may explain for the better knowledge of women about the sites at risk of landslides.
Activity C. Finalization
- Final maps of vulnerability and livelihoods
Final participatory maps of vulnerability and livelihoods were created based on the results of participatory mapping. Seperate maps were made for male and female in each commune.
- Dissemination workshop with local authority
An extra dissemination workshop was carried out in May 2018. Local authorities have been informed about the final outcomes of the project as well as introduced about the participatory maps and the opinions/expectations of local communities. The authorities and the research team also discussed the uses of participatory mapping in the planning of socio-economic development and climate change adaptation.
The local authorities have perceived the gendered opinions of local communities regarding to the livelihoods and vulnerability in the context of climate change and rubber development. However, some expressed that some demands of local authorities are not realistic and there are many factors influencing the decisions on land use planning and climate change adaptation.
The authorities recognized the efforts and achievements of the project, especially in encouraging and empowering local communities to participate in land and water use management via the tool of participatory mapping. However, they also noticed the limitations that the project have, as well as the financial and operational difficulties in scaling up the project in Dien Bien and Vietnam.
Description of Any Activities/Milestones Not Completed
As stated in the proposal, Thai men and women do not know where their pieces of land in the rubber plantations are so they cannot profit from rubber products; there is also no knowledge of who planted each area of rubber trees: either the rubber company, the local authorities or the local people. In other words, the ignorance of spatial visualization adversely affects both men’s and women’s livelihoods and their food security in an already poor region. One of the activities to meet Objective 3 was To produce the final map of forest land and water resources based on participatory GIS mapping. We could produce the map, however, it was not possible for us to compare the land boundaries demarcated in the red book with the actual land area of each household in the rubber plantation. This is due to the fact that by the time the project was being carried out the Dien Bien Rubber Company requested all households that they had signed contracts with to return their red book back to the company. When heads of households were asked the reason why they had to return their red book to the company, 100% of respondents said they did not know the reason why. The research team also contacted the company for an interview, but was not successful. On a positive note, after the training all participants were provided knowledge and skills to help them recognize where their forest land and water resources are on the map. This would help them argue with the Dien Bien Rubber Company later to receive profit from rubber products.
Lessons Learned and Recommendations
During the implementation of the project we were encountering the following challenges:
- The project encountered difficulties at the start of the project. It took the project staff more than two months to discuss and help the provincial officials understand what GIS mapping was. In Vietnam, mapping of an area means depicting a space, location, and display of parameters directly related to that location relative to the surrounding area. As such, Dien Bien would release a lot of information to the outsiders, a practice that is not accepted in the province. The reseach team had to use personal contacts to meet and convince the provincial officials that GIS mapping was not what they had thought. We then got the green signal to start the project. The start-up workshop provided them an opportunity to further understand the objectives of the project.
- On of our assumptions was that the villagers’ drinking sources of water were affected by rubber plantation. However, our research findings show that villagers’ sources of drinking water were not affected by rubber plantation at all. The reason is that the villagers have had access to clean water before rubber trees were planted in the area in 2008. The water pipe system has been set up to bring clean water from the top of the mountain where rubber trees are not planted to each household in the village. The initiative was donated by an international NGO in early 2000s.
- Working with the villagers was not as easy as we expected. By the time we carried out household interviews and group discussion in the village, all villagers were very busy collecting a medicinal plant – Cibotium barometz -in the forest to sell to Chinese traders with a price of one USD/kg. For a day of collection of Cibotium barometz in the forest one could earn 10USD/day. Therefore, it was very difficult for us to set up interviews and group discussion with villagers. We then contacted the secretary of the village and he helped us arrange meetings and villagers for us to conduct interviews.
- Researchers need to be patient while working with provincial officials. It is time consuming to convince them to understand the project objectives and in such cases personal contacts are of great importance to help us to approach the officilas who are always busy and always have excuses not being to meet researchers. Meeting with them are not necessarily formal. We could invite them to have some drinks/lunch/dinner and this is great opportunity for us to talk about the project.
- Researchers need to be as flexible as possible while working with vilagers. Sometimes we need to learn how to drink with them in order to get the real stories out from the local politics.