Gambling with the Land: The Contemporary Evolution of Southeast Asian Agriculture

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By Rodolphe De Koninck and Jean-François Rousseau

Since the early 1960s, Southeast Asia countries have satisfied local demand for food while catering increasingly to the world market for agricultural produce, primarily through the export of industrial crops. Local production of food, particularly rice, has kept pace with population growth, while a massive intensification of cultivation along with territorial expansion of the agricultural realm have improved food security as a whole, although not for every country in the region. Expansion is also occurring in the maritime domain, with aquaculture growing even faster than land-based cultivation. Both forms of expansion have increased pressure on environmental resources, especially on forests, including coastal stands of mangrove. Countries in the region are gambling higher production levels can be sustained without jeopardizing regional food security, and the stakes are very high.

Gambling with the Land surveys and analyzes the production and trade of major agricultural crops throughout Southeast Asia between 1960 and the first decade of the 21st century. After reviewing the post-colonial role of agriculture in the eight major agricultural countries - Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines - the authors examine regional patterns of population growth and agricultural employment, positioning the region within broader world trends. Their carefully documented investigation highlights a number of salient processes as characteristics of the region's still rapidly expanding agricultural sector, and evaluates future prospects based on current trends.


"This book is quite successful in describing the changing features of Southeast Asian agriculture since the early 1960s up to the present. The large amounts of statistical data compiled and analysed in this book alone will be beneficial for those who are interested in structural change in the region, not only of its agriculture, but also of the economy and society in general." - Hiroyoshi Kano

"A learned, stimulating and yet puzzling book." - Michael J. Montesano


Rodolphe De Koninck is Professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Montreal and holder of the Canada Chair of Asian Research.

Jean-François Rousseau is a doctoral candidate in geography at McGill University in Montreal.


Challenges of Agrarian Transition in Southeast Asia Series
Publication Year: 2012
190 pages, 297mm x 210mm
ISBN: 978-9971-69-553-8, Hardback

NUS Press