Corps de l’article

This research monograph is an important contribution to the study of agricultural growth in Viêt Nam that focuses upon four main themes. First the role of the agricultural colonization in the upland and central plateaux regions of Vietnam historically occupied by montagnards and forests. In particular the study focuses upon the period since 1975 when the Vietnamese state has encouraged the movement of lowland Vietnamese these regions leading to the destruction of forests and the growth of commercial crops such as coffee. A second theme is the exploration of the environmental and human consequences of these processes of colonization that have depleted the resources of these upland areas and created serious problems for the upland peoples. Thirdly the author attempts to show how these agricultural changes are the consequences of the development path adopted by Viêt Nam that involve restructuring the mix of crops so as to focus on crops and products that have more demand in the global markets. Thus globalization is an important underlying theme of the book. A final theme focuses on the inevitability of these processes of frontier colonization driven by the developmental imperatives of the state.

The book is very clearly organized to address these themes. Part One lays out the geographical features of the historical evolution of the upland regions, focusing on the Central Plateau region as it has evolved during the pre-colonial, colonial and socialist eras up to 1975. Part Two presents an excellent analysis of the process of agricultural colonization as it has effected the province of Lam Dong of which is perhaps the most accessible of the provinces of the Central Plateau. As someone who visited this province frequently in the 1990’s I can only report that Déry has done a superb job of charting the significant changes that have occurred over the last twenty five years. Thus in the period since 1975 the proportion of Viet population in the province has increased from 54 percent to more than 80 percent and the montagnards have dropped to only 20 per cent of the population. The land use patterns have changed dramatically with loss of over 30 per cent of the forest and a considerable increase of cultivated land much of given over to coffee. Dery uses carefully researched micro-studies to illustrate these processes. While it is not the focus of his study this growth of commercial agriculture has also been associated with increasing urbanization focused on Dalat the administrative centre but also stretching along the main road between Ho Chi Minh City that now looks like an attap strip mall.

The final part of the book is a thoughtful analysis of the ways these processes state-led development, agricultural colonization, interaction between of upland and lowland peoples and global forces have played-out on the geographical stage of the Central Plateau. This is a richly rewarding study that combines first class fieldwork with an exemplary use of archival and contemporary sources that updates the fundamental studies of agriculture in Viêt Nam made by Goureau during the colonial period.