Land Acquisitions in Northeastern Cambodia: Space and Time matters | Land Portal | Securing Land Rights Through Open Data

Resource information

Date of publication: 
December 2015
Resource Language: 
ISBN / Resource ID: 
MLRF:2195
Pages: 
i-iii, 1-29

Over the last decade, the highlands of Ratanakiri province in northeastern Cambodia have witnessed massive land acquisitions and profound land use changes, mostly from forest covers to rubber plantation, which has contributed to rapidly and profoundly transform the livelihoods of smallholders relying primarily on family-based farming. Based on village- and households-level case studies in two districts of the province, this paper analyses this process and its mid-term consequences on local livelihoods. We first look at who has acquired land, where, how and at what pace. The whole range of stakeholders – large-scale companies but also medium-scale ones, in-migrant households, and indigenous populations who also engaged into land acquisitions – is taken into account. The location and timing of acquisitions shows that the numbers of hectares at stake do not say much on the magnitude of assets lost and the consequences for local populations. Land transactions are not always immediately synonymous with the occupation of land; and it takes time for companies to plant thousands of acres they have acquired. Second, we analyse the mid-term - over 5-7 years - transformations of livelihoods, including households’ responses to new constraints and opportunities, and attempts to resist land acquisitions. The economic environment, in which local populations have to reorganize their livelihoods, has drastically changed. New opportunities have arisen with crop booms, stronger urban-rural interconnections and market development, but only few people can take advantage of these as they lack capacity to operate on the market. Indigenous families are increasingly in search of non-farming and off-farm activities, but this transition is hampered by the arrival of in-migrants who seize the majority of the new opportunities in trade, services and jobs. Third, social differentiation among families is analysed with respect to land assets, economic activities and capacity to engage into rubber. A typology of livelihood transformation shows that for the majority of the population, farming-based livelihoods do not provide anymore enough to meet family needs. Recent land assets changes show that social differentiation is increasing both between native and non-native, and among the different social groups. Insofar, populations have been left with some land, but areas planted with rubber trees are increasing, companies and family-entrepreneurs continue to try to expand their land holdings, and the flow of in-migrants is continuing. As space left to families is consequently shrinking, and because they are unlikely to diversify enough their livelihood systems with non-farming occupations or salary work, the majority of indigenous populations seem concerned in livelihoods that are not anymore sustainable if they only are local.

Authors and Publishers

Author(s), editor(s), contributor(s): 
Gironde, Christophe Peeters, Amaury
Publisher(s): 

The International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) in The Hague is part of the Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR).

It is a graduate institute of policy-oriented critical social science, founded in 1952 and able to draw on sixty years of experience.

ISS is a highly diverse international community of scholars and students from the global south and the north, which brings together people, ideas and insights in a multi-disciplinary setting which nurtures, fosters and promotes critical thinking and conducts innovative research into fundamental social problems.

The Land Deal Politics Initiative (LDPI) is a network of the research programme of Political Economy of Resources, Environment and Population (PER) of the International Institute of Social Studies in The Hague, Part of Erasmus University Rotterdam.

The aim of LDPI is for a broad framework encompassing the political economy, political ecology and political sociology of land deals.

Our general framework is based on answering 6 key questions:

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The Regional Center for Social Science and Sustainable Development (RCSD) was established in 1998 at the Faculty of Social Sciences, Chiang Mai University, Thailand in response to the need for integration of social science and natural science knowledge in order to gain a better understanding of sustainable development issues in upper mainland Southeast Asia. RCSD has, since that time, striven to become a truly regional center for sustainable development issues, linking graduate training and research to development policy and practice.

The Transnational Institute (TNI) is an international research and advocacy institute committed to building a just, democratic and sustainable world. For more than 40 years, TNI has served as a unique nexus between social movements, engaged scholars and policy makers.

The Transnational Institute (TNI) is an international research and advocacy institute committed to building a just, democratic and sustainable world.

Founded in 1974 as a network of ‘activist scholars’, TNI continues to be a unique nexus between social movements, engaged scholars and policy makers.

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