Contract farming in Myanmar: From expectations to exploitation

Since Myanmar’s independence, the state has always been the ultimate land owner, with the power to expropriate land from farmers and grant non-transferrable tillage rights to them. According to Myanmar law, the acquisition of land is legitimate if the government decides that it is needed for the public interest. In return, the former land owners must be fully compensated for the losses. The sheer power that the state has over land rights has led to numerous cases of land grabbing.

In the late 1990s, the government started promoting an elite-driven agricultural growth model by reallocating land to mostly private investors. Without updating agricultural land maps, or conducting a census, policymakers were reckless enough to ignore the fact that little vacant land actually existed. More than 5.2 million acres of what the military government called «waste land» was awarded to private agribusiness companies. As it turned out, this «waste land» was in fact communal land shared by small farmers and families of ethnic minorities. Due to their practice of communal land ownership, these groups have never been accustomed to using land certificates and many of their cultivated areas were not officially registered. As a result, the state assigned land to companies that had been in use by local farmers for decades. The implementation of large-scale agricultural projects as big as 50,000 acres led to the eviction of thousands of farmers from their hereditary lands.

Please find the full article in Burmese Version here: contract_firming_burmese_version.pdf