New publication: “They Will Need Land!”

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thematic study

New publication: “They Will Need Land!”


15 August 2016

In Cambodia, the majority of the population is still composed of smallholder family farmers.
54% of the total labour force is employed in agriculture. They have access to 3.6 million ha of
land, representing 19% of the country’s total land. The rest is divided between large scale
economic land concessions (12%), public forests and protected areas, unclassified areas and
some infrastructure.

The population is still growing, and contrary to what many people think, the farmer
population also continues to grow, despite rural-urban migration and the development of
the industry and services sector. As a result, farms are divided, landlessness is growing, and
many farmer’s children from the central plains migrate to other parts of the country looking
for land. The question addressed by this study is: if the present trends continue, how much
land will be needed to ensure the livelihoods of family farmers in Cambodia in the next 20

The study by Jean-Christophe Diepart, synthesises available data on land use, land tenure
and demographic trends to answer to this question, and will serve as input to the policy
debate organized by MRLG in Cambodia. The prognosis exercise is based on two scenarios:
one related to the rate of transfer of active labour from agriculture to industry and the
services sectors, and another related to the area of farmland that might be provided to
smallholder farmers. It concludes that smallholder farmers will need between 320,000 ha
and 1,960,000 ha of additional land, with an average scenario of 1.6 million ha. The study
explores different policies by which the Government of Cambodia could meet this target,
and highlights the potential of the reallocation of cancelled ELCs as one promising avenue
for policy dialogue.


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