Sumernet

Impacts of the East-West Economic Corridor on local livelihoods and forest resources in the Mekong River region: Case studies of selected forest-dependent villages in Vietnam, Lao PDR and Myanmar (EWEC-FC)

The East–West Economic Corridor (EWEC) is an economic development program initiated in 1998 to promote development and economic integration of the four ASEAN countries: Myanmar, Thailand, Lao PDR and Vietnam.
EWEC created the first transportation corridor – operational since 2006 – running the entire width of mainland Southeast Asia with a distance of 1,450 kilometres. The EWEC contains many forest-dependent villages, about 37% of the total area in Quang Tri province, Vietnam; about 34% of Kyaikmaraw in Myanmar and about 45% of total areas in Savannakhet province in Laos, with a significant number of people living below the poverty line.

A large proportion of the people in these villages are largely dependent on subsistence agricultural production, cattle raising and access to forest for wood and non-timber forest product collection. There are only a few households involved in small services and cash crop cultivation. The establishment of the East-West Economic Corridor has brought some kinds of benefits to some regions and stakeholders. These include employment in services such as hotels and guesthouses, increase in trade and investment, tourism and agriculture. However, other stakeholders such as disadvantaged communities or those dependent on natural resroucrs for their livelihoods have been affected. More importantly, the EWEC activities have resulted in putting more pressure on the forest resources due to the rapid clearing of forests for the expansion of intensive cultivation of cash crops, illegal logging, and infrastructure development.

Our review of the current literature on EWEC shows that while statistical information is available to show economic development such as aggregate trade and investment, number of factories being established, tourists and cross-border movements, etc. But there is also an absence of information on the impacts of EWEC in particular on local livelihoods and on other social and environmental issues; this research project aims to fill that gap.

Research questions

•    What are the impacts of the EWEC on the local livelihoods of forest-dependent communities, particularly vulnerable groups?

•    How have local livelihoods of forest-dependent communities been changed under the above impacts of the EWEC?

•    What are the impacts of the EWEC on forest resources in terms of access to forest resources and its management by local communities?

•    What are the key factors influencing the changes in local livelihoods of forest-dependent communities, particularly women and ethnic minority groups, and for forest management?

Objectives

The objectives of this collaborative project are to provide policy makers and decision-makers with information about the larger implications of regional economic integration projects like the EWEC. The research project has these following objectives:

•    To investigate the impacts of East-West Economic Corridor (EWEC) on the livelihoods of forest-dependent communities, particularly for vulnerable groups, such as the poor households, ethnic minority groups and women.

•    To investigate the impacts of East-West Economic Corridor development on forest resource along the EWEC areas.

•    To acquire valuable insights into the changes in local livelihoods of forest-dependent communities and in access to forest resources under the impacts of EWEC.

•    To provide an analysis of the policy-level implications of regional integration efforts, and how to address these changes and impacts towards the improvement of the local livelihoods of forest-dependent communities and forest management.

Methodology

For this study, in order to evaluate the impacts of EWEC on local livelihoods, the Double Different and Matching method (i.e. Difference in Difference method) will be used for analysis based on the sustainable livelihood framework. We will be comparing indicators reflecting the local livelihoods and forest resources in “Before” and “After” and “With” and “Without” the operation of EWEC.

Using “Before” and “After” method, the study will measure the changes in the same indicators at the beginning of the corridor implementation and after. However, the changes in the indicators may not reflect the actual contribution or impact of the corridor as these changes may also be affected by other forces. Hence the study also adopts the “With” and “Without” method to measure the changes in the indicators in terms of local livelihoods, forest resources and forest management. The impacts of EWEC will be measured by the changes in the value of indicators under the scenarios of both “With” and “Without” the economic corridor.

Policy impacts expected

The study aims to show to policymakers that the economic corridor and regional economic integration efforts can have a wide range of impacts on both local livelihoods and forest resources.

The findings will create a better understanding of the impacts of EWEC on local livelihoods to better influence national policy debates and policy formulation about how to implerment regional integration efforts. The policy makers can expand their understanding of the EWEC’s impacts on local livelihoods partic- ularly for disadvantaged groups such as those living in the border areas, ethnic minority groups and women.

Lead contact

Bui Duc Tinh (Ph.D)

College of Economics, Hue University, Faculty of Economics and Development Studies. Hue University.

100 – Phung Hung, Hue City, Vietnam

Email: bdtinh@yahoo.com.sg