Co-operation and contestation: farmer-state relations in agricultural transformation, An Giang Province, Vietnam

Charles Howie

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

603 Downloads (Pure)


This thesis analyses farmer-state, and farmer-farmer relations in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam, focusing on agricultural transformations in An Giang Province. It does so at three levels: first, at the largest scale, farmer-state relations are explored through the building of common dikes of different heights; second, farmer-farmer relations are examined through farmers’ management of flood water within common August dikes; and third, at the smallest scale, the scope for interhousehold diversification in the face of common environmental and economic constraints. Case study fieldwork took place between 2002 and 2007 in four communes using a mixture of inductive and deductive methods. Political ecology at the micro-level provides the overarching conceptual framework, and co-operative water management is analysed using Olson’s (1965) and Ostrom’s (1990) ‘collective action’ and ‘common pool resources’ frameworks. The research aims to contribute to a better understanding of farmer-state relations in the South of Vietnam.

Drawing on Kerkvliet’s (2005) models of farmer-state relations, an additional model, advocacy relations, existed in the study area, although dialogic and a form of dominantstate relations also existed. Since a period of national food insecurity in the 1980s, related to the failure of state-initiated co-operatives here, farmers retain and exercise leverage against the state by, for example, resisting proposals to raise the height of the dikes. Within common August dikes, farmers act collectively in ‘pumping clubs’ to manage flood water. August dikes raise production, but reduce the scope for individual decisionmaking. Common high dikes allow farmers to act more individualistically and this accentuates differences in success between households. Paradoxically however, high dikes have also enabled the state to gain control of water management, although it is not clear if this has been done in order to regain political control or to protect the poor and the landless.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Unwin, Tim, Supervisor
  • Willis, Katie, Advisor
Award date1 Apr 2011
Publication statusUnpublished - 2011

Cite this