Evaluating the impact of a targeted land distribution program: Evidence from Vietnam
In this paper we estimate the impact of a land reform program in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. In 2002, Program 132 directed the transfer of farm land to ethnic minority households that had less than one hectare of land. Using the 2002 Vietnam Living Standards Survey as a baseline, in 2007 we resurveyed over one thousand households to provide a retrospective evaluation of the impact of their participation in Program 132. We supplemented the household-level panel with commune and district-level surveys as well as local interviews in order to better understand the details of program implementation. Contrary to official reports that the program was implemented as intended, our findings show that there was considerable deviation from the planned program parameters: Many eligible households did not receive land, while ineligible households often did. We estimate that beneficiaries of the program in the province of Kontum experienced increases of household income largely in line with what one would expect from a small plot of poor farm land. Outside Kontum, where participation rates were substantially lower, household incomes did not improve with program participation, though this could be explained by lags in the maturation of perennial crops. Overall, our results underscore the limitations of simple transfers of land as a mechanism for improving the living standards of ethnic minorities. Our results also show the significant gap that can exist between simple program design and decentralized implementation, the potential implications of which we discuss for program evaluation.
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