Socioeconomic outcomes of agricultural land use change in Southeast Asia

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Agricultural land use is transforming rapidly in Southeast Asia, often supported by development policies aiming primarily at economic growth. However, the socioeconomic outcomes of these changes for smallholder farmers remain unclear. Here, we systematically review cases of agricultural land use change in Southeast Asia to assess their socioeconomic outcomes and potential trade-off and synergies in these outcomes. Of the 126 reviewed cases, we find mostly positive outcomes for income (SDG 1, 100 cases) and employment (SDG 8, 11 cases), while outcomes on health (SDG 3, 9 cases) were mixed, and outcomes for food security (SDG 2, 44 cases), gender equality (SDG 5, 13 cases), and economic equality (SDG 10, 14 cases) were mostly negative. Studies describing multiple outcomes show indications of synergies between income and food security, and between income and employment, but also potential trade-offs between income and economic equality. In addition, we find that economic land concessions result in multiple negative outcomes more often than other types of land governance regimes. The results provide evidence that economic gains from agricultural land use change often come at a cost of other dimensions of sustainable development.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1094-1109
Number of pages16
JournalAMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment
Issue number5
Early online date18 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - May 2022


  • Land use change
  • Large-scale land acquisition
  • Smallholder agriculture
  • Sustainable development goals
  • Trade-offs
  • Southeast Asia

VU Research Profile

  • Science for Sustainability


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