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Library The Impact of Economic Land Concessions on the Local Livelihoods of Forest Communities in Kratie Province, Northeastern Cambodia

The Impact of Economic Land Concessions on the Local Livelihoods of Forest Communities in Kratie Province, Northeastern Cambodia

The Impact of Economic Land Concessions on the Local Livelihoods of Forest Communities in Kratie Province, Northeastern Cambodia

Resource information

Date of publication
December 2009
Resource Language
ISBN / Resource ID
i-xv, 1-204

This study attempts to understand the impact of economic land concessions for agro-industrial production promoted by the government. This promotion heavily impacts on the locals’ livelihoods and obstructs decentralized natural resource management, especially in natural forest resources. They also examined locals’ response to such a development scheme. The study found that in regard to “economic growth”, the state has very strong control over natural resources and people. Further, as a post-war nation, the state commits to developing its economy by gathering involvement from different stakeholders, including international donors, development agencies, NGOs, and local people in the development process. Yet privatization of natural resources such as land, forestry, fishery, mining and so forth can be also found in the Kingdom in favor of a globalizing economy. After the first general election in 1993, the Cambodian government has been committed to reducing poverty by taking multiple approaches. In terms of economic liberalization, Cambodia has been integrated into the regional and global economies. This approach offers a good opportunity to international trade, resulting in an increased demand for resource utilities such as forest, land, water, fishery and mining. With high demand of these resources and lack of effective regulations and managerial mechanisms, the multiple users take an opportunity to exploit at a massive level. Yet land and forest resources, which are essentially important to the locals’ livelihoods, have been privatized for the purpose of large-scale agricultural development, known as economic land concessions for commercial tree plantations. The privatization of forestland too often does not have any local consultation on the negative impacts on local communities and natural environments, leading to spark conflicts between private companies and local people. This study took place in O Tanoeung village, Kratie province, Northeastern Cambodia. To understand the context, documentary research was done, and various research methods were applied to gather primary data such as key informant interview, focus group, participant observation and household survey. The data were categorized and interpreted in the frame of the concepts of state power in natural resource management as enforcement, local community participation in resource management, and local’s response as a livelihood strategy. The critical analysis was based on the interpretation of livelihood activities and the perspectives of the locals, and the local complexity. Paddy rice fields, forest products and grasslands are the most important sources for the O Tanoeung villagers’ livelihoods. The villagers attempted to set up a community forestry system in order to respond to declining natural resources in the community and to sustain their livelihoods. The idea of natural forest protection was initiated by the locals in the CDP and recognized by the local and provincial authorities. However, it was ignored by the central government. Yet the government granted the forestland sought as a community forest to the private company. As farmland is most important for their life, it became the center of motivation to protest against the company. Although the farmlands were prevented from encroachment, the locals are not satisfied as they are concerned about the lack of land for their next generation and no space for raising cattle, and losing their natural resource-based livelihoods. Thus, they keep resisting through “silent actions” such as refusing to work for the company, secretly entering the concession area to hunt or collect forest products, and wishing that bad things happen to the company. In this sense, the locals not only reject participation in such a development scheme, but they also see this scheme as the biggest obstacle to their future lives. Besides seeing this scheme in a passive way, the locals consider that the government left them behind, and they are very much concerned with their future lives.

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