Land reform landmarksYoung communists coined the term "Fields for the Farmers" in 1930 during the Soviet Nghe Tinh movement in the central provinces. That motto carried the insurgents through the 1945 August revolution. Since the revolution, land reform has been a central concern to successive administrations, marked by the following milestones:
1945: Before the August revolution, dia chu (land owners) accounted for 2% of the population but owned 52.1% of all arable land. After the revolution, the government temporarily gave plots belonging to the French and landowners to landless people. The government issued a simultaneous decision to reduce the amount that tenants had to pay land owners to 25%.
July 1949: During the struggle against the colonial French administration, the government forbid land owners to collect land in order to ensure rice distribution throughout the country.
1950: The government nationalised all fallow land as well as land owned by the French and anti-revolution land owners.
1952: Distribution of land to farmers began in the provinces of Cao Bang, Bac Can, Lang Son, Thai Nguyen, Ha Giang and Tuyen Quang.
1955: After the liberation of the north, agriculture was in bad shape: 140,000ha of arable land was left fallow; 200,000ha did had no irrigation. In order to boost production, the government permitted land ownership and encouraged reclamation of fallow land. Cai cach ruong dat (land reform) was introduced in all 22 northern provinces. Land was confiscated from rich land owners and distributed among the landless at the rate of three sao per person (one sao equals 360 sq m of land). A total of 81,000ha was divided among 2.1m households.
1958-1964: A movement to put 95% of land under collective ownership was launched. The remaining 5% was reserved for farmers to grow vegetables and form co-operatives. Members of the co-operatives would pool land and work, and in return receive a portion of the final harvest. By the end of 1960, 414,000 co-operatives had been formed with over 2.4m member households. Collectivisation, however, stripped farmers of incentive to work and had disastrous results on productivity. Efforts to introduce similar measures in the south after 1975 also met with failure. During this period Vietnam became a net importer of rice and other basic foodstuffs.
1980: The problems facing collective farms reached a crisis point. At the local level farmers devoted their most of their energies to their 5% gardens, instead of the co-operative plots. The Party Central Committee's Decision 100 on khoan (contract system) in 1981 breathed some new life into the sector, but basic farming imbalances were not improved.
1988: Renovation. Decision 10 of the Party Central Committee recognised the long-term and equal existence of a multi-sectoral economy. Among the radical reforms was the authorisation to issue 10-15year land use rights.
1998: Proposals have been tabled to allow fully-fledged private farming. According to existing land laws, individual land ownership is limited to three hectares of land. The draft regulations scheduled for discussion at the next session of the National Assembly session could change that. Alternative suggestions have posited the idea of permitting individual holdings of as much as 30ha, depending upon the type of land.
(C) Vietnam Economic Times - 1998