Livelihood Vulnerability and Food Security among Upland Ethnic Minorities in Northern Vietnam

  • Christine Bonnin
  • Sarah Turner


For the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, national food self-sufficiency is a core concern. The state focuses on rice production and output levels for local and overseas markets, endorsing the adoption of hybrid rice seeds through numerous development initiatives. Yet, this approach overlooks an important group of rice producers and consumers in Vietnam: highland ethnic minorities. Fluctuations in global grain demand mean little for their daily coping mechanisms and near-subsistence livelihoods, but food security is an ongoing preoccupation for their households. In this research note, we take an actor-oriented livelihood approach to examine food security among ethnic minorities—namely, Hmong and Yao—in Lào Cai province, northern Vietnam. Arguing that the everyday, subjective experiences of upland minority groups have been ignored, we examine how these groups have reacted to the introduction of hybrid seeds, their negotiations with the state over its use, and their trials and tribulations along the way.


food security; ethnic minorities; Hmong; Yao; Lào Cai; northern Vietnam