Nearly 20% of Myanmar’s population, about 10 million people, live or farm on land the government formally classifies as “vacant, fallow, or virgin (VFV).” This concept is a holdover concept from colonial days.
In 2018 the government began a process of significantly amending the VFV Land Management Law of 2012. The proposed changes would make a bad situation even worse, by actively dispossessing people currently using VFV land.
Namati and our partners provided urgent input to parliament across multiple drafts. We drew on our case experience to illuminate the real-world implications of the proposed changes, and to suggest a more just way of dealing with VFV land.
The final amendments, adopted in September, strongly favor connected insiders and may be very damaging to farmers. But Namati and our partners made a bad reform significantly less so. We were able to secure four significant wins in the new law.
Most important among these, customary land is now excluded from being defined as VFV land. Second, while insufficient in length, existing land users have a grace period to apply to use their land before it is opened up to applications from others. Third, the committees which administer VFV land will include civil society and ethnic minority representatives. Fourth, the administration of VFV land can now be handled at the state and regional level rather than the national level.