Urbanization and rural development in Viet Nam's Mekong Delta: Livelihood transformations in three fruit-growing settlements
In recent years, the poverty rate among fruit farmers in the rural Mekong Delta has declined more rapidly than among all rural households in the region and in Vietnam. This is despite huge fluctuations in export markets for fruit in the last decade. The findings from this case study in three rural settlements in Tien Giang and Vinh Long provinces suggest that the main driver of rural development is a positive reciprocal relationship between urban centres and farming and a strong role for small towns in local economic growth and poverty reduction.The main factors are: first, the growth of urban incomes throughout Vietnam, resulting in higher standards of living, better diets and growing demand for fresh fruit; and second, the increase in employment opportunities in non-farm sectors, which allows farmers to diversify their income sources and invest in fruit production. In addition, locally-based traders play a key role in linking small-scale farmers to markets and in directly and indirectly stimulating non-farm employment in large villages and small market towns, which reduces the vulnerability of poor households unable to migrate.
But while, overall, urbanization has so far benefited the case study settlements, it also presents new challenges. At the present time, the three settlements are largely success stories, especially when compared to other rural settlements in the Mekong Delta region. However, whether they will be able to continue on this path will depend not only on the entrepreneurial spirit of their residents but also on wider socio-economic transformations. The differences between the three settlements also suggest that they may evolve following different trajectories, which in turn will present different risks and opportunities.