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What maintains poverty? A study of factors affecting poverty in mountainous areas of Quang Ninh province, Vietnam

This study aims to identify the factors leading to the different standards of living in upland communities - and to propose how support may be given in a more effective way. This study considers the causes of household poverty, equity issues and development assistance programmes implemented in each commune. It considers in depth how and what both the authorities at different levels and poverty alleviation programmes have done for the economic development of each commune and for maintaining equity - especially in terms of supporting the poor - and what the poor think of the assistance provided to them, as well as their own problems and solutions. The following key issues were identified: • Weaknesses in land reform, concerning both agricultural and forest land allocation to households, is one of the causes of poverty for numerous households. • Poor access to information and low levels of literacy, together with high population growth, are further causes of poverty. • Farmers’ passive approach to marketing, a consequence of the long existence of a centrallyplanned economy, is also a reason for their poor standard of living; most external assistance tends to increase passivity of the beneficiary groups rather than strengthening their self-help capacity. • The role of commune and village administrative institutions is most important in community development, maintaining equity and supporting the poor. Where the village or commune leadership is strong, efforts to reduce poverty are more successful. • Lack of participation leads to a low level of benefits reaching the poor in most assistance programmes. • The role of the Agriculture and Forestry Extension is weak. • The SFEs, a big land stakeholder in the community, enjoy a much more favourable share but fail to use land in a sustainable way, while a number of households have no access to forest land.

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