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Vietnam has approximately 10 million people living below the poverty line, in particular in the midlands and upland regions in the North. The poverty rate in Lang Son province is 15.8%; Lao Cai 27.4% and Dien Bien 37.0%, respectively, three provinces in the focus of the proposed research. Many rely on agriculture, live in the remote mountainous areas with limited access to modern infrastructure, education and government and international aid. The ethnic minorities on the physical, cultural and economic fringes of China, Vietnam and Laos face tough choices on a daily basis and are the most vulnerable and at risk of being “left behind”. They have historically and culturally developed adaptive and resilient livelihoods that are less well known about or understood. How they have responded to or have been impacted by Covid-19 is not known in detail. Many households can sustain themselves uniquely by sending some household members to work across the borders. With the covid-19 crisis, migrant workers were forced to return to Vietnam. This has resulted in immediate income loss and has compromised their livelihoods. There is a knowledge gap, not only in Vietnam, as to how border closure affects the economic, social and environmental circumstances of migrant workers’ families, particularly under the uncertainties linked to the evolution of the pandemic. Migrant workers are key to addressing the spread of Covid-19 and while Vietnam has developed efforts to report the movement or return of migrant workers from abroad or within its borders, the most vulnerable individuals and communities in the upland areas along the border with China and Laos have been overlooked. The impact on these migrant workers and ethnic minorities has been significantly higher, and the consequences of Covid-19 on their livelihoods devastating.


The project addresses the central issue of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the livelihoods of vulnerable communities and the repercussions of this on the interactions between social and ecological systems. Working directly with affected communities and government and non-government actors, we aim to inform and allow changes in official policies, based on scientific evidence. The project addresses SDG 1 on poverty, SDG 2 on hunger, SDG 3 on health and well-being, SDG 5 on gender equality, SDG 8 on decent work, SDG 10 on reduced inequalities, and SDG 15 on life on land.


A multi-method approach is being used in this project, combining participatory approaches with analysis of remotely sensed data and social-ecological modelling.

Study Areas

The research focuses on three Northern provinces in Vietnam that border China and Laos. From west to east, location of Dien Bien, Lao Cai, and Lang Son provinces (displayed in blue).

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