The project Managing telecoupled landscapes for the sustainable provision of ecosystem services and poverty alleviation (2015-2020), supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), assesses the impacts and opportunities that arise when distant but coupled, or telecoupled, systems interact with each other, for instance through the market, migration, environmental interactions, or flows of information. The project focuses on the land use transformations taking place in forest frontier areas in Madagascar, Myanmar, and Laos. In Laos, new land use regulations implemented under the guidance of foreign donors, such as land use zoning, titling, and the creation of protected areas, were important triggers for the expansion of cash crop plantations.
While these policies were meant to rationalise agricultural production and protect the forest, in practice there remains a gap between the «political forest» in policy maps, and the actual land use on the ground. The expansion of export-oriented commodities was further reinforced through bilateral relations to China and cross-border kinship networks, all of which shows how policies and politics can be closely linked with land change. Adrienne Grêt-Regamey, Enrico Celio, Victoria Junquera