Gender Sensitive GIS Mapping

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:

  1. To better understand gender-sensitive control and access to forest 
    land and water resources due to land dispossession in rubber plantation
  2. 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.
  3. 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):

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.

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
  • A2.2 – A2.6. To conduct field survey, data analysis and field report.

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.

C. Finalization

  • 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

  • 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
  • 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
508 No. of members whose names are on household registeration 529
Average HH size 4.93 Female to male ratio 1.027
Dependency ratio 0.607 Average age of HH heads
(years old)
Female-headed HH (%) 26.2 Education of HH heads
(school years)
Single-parenting HH (%) 6.8 Immigrant (%) 21.4
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
  • Land issues involve the loss of swidden fields for rubber, lack of
    land certification, and loss of farming lands due to landslides and
  • 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
  • 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 Impacts Years
Flooding Loss of production,
landslides, contamination, diseases
2011, 2012, 2014, 2015,
Pests and diseases Loss of production, death
of livestock
2015, 2017
Erosion Loss of farming lands 2011, 2015, 2016
Droughts & water
Loss of production 2015, 2016
Tornadoes House and garden impars 2015, 2016
Heat wave Loss of production 2016

  • 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

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.

Lesson learned:

  • 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.