Essay: Cambodia economy

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  • Published on: November 15, 2017
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In Southeast Asia, Cambodia is one of the poorest developing countries. The environmental problems in Cambodia lower the value of and access to productive resources as well as create health issues, especially for the poor, which increases vulnerability and complicates economic development and the fight against poverty.
In the year of 2015, according to Asian Development Bank:

• 14% of the population lives below the national poverty line in Cambodia.

• The proportion of employed population below $1.90 Purchasing Power Parity a day is 33.6% in Cambodia.

• For every 1,000 babies born in Cambodia, 25 die before their first birthday.

Poverty Data (Year 2015)


Poverty is one of the factor that causes environmental problem in Cambodia. Poverty refers to the condition of not having the means to afford basic human needs such as clean water, health care, nutrition, clothing, shelter and education.

Poverty and environmental issues are interrelated. Poverty among people puts stress on the environment whereas environmental problems cause severe suffering to the poor. Poor people does not give any thought to the preservation and conservation of natural resources due to their extreme poverty and lack of knowledge on environmental handling as they cannot afford to get education. Besides, they tend to over-utilize the natural resources since they do not have any other alternate means of livelihood except the use of natural resources.

Many poor women lack the resources needed to engage in birth control as extreme poverty doesn’t always have access to birth education. Therefore, it is common for poor women to continue having children well after they would have liked because of little or no access to resources and education. The more the global population grows, the more weight is placed on the environment. Every human being consumes their share of resources from the environment, and with so many births originating from poor communities, the burdens placed on the environment become heavier and heavier each day.

Poverty often causes people to put relatively more pressure on the environment which results in larger families (due to high death rates and insecurity), improper human waste disposal leading to unhealthy living conditions, more pressure on fragile land to meet their needs, overexploitation of natural resources and more deforestation. Insufficient knowledge about agricultural practices can also lead to decline in crop yield and productivity etc. In addition, poor people harvest natural resources for their survival or in order to meet their basic needs such as firewood, agricultural productions (such as maize), and water and wild plants for their medicine. All in all, poverty has directly or indirectly, gives an impact on the environment in Cambodia.

Agriculture, fisheries and forest resources play an important role in supporting livelihoods,

especially in providing diversifying subsistence and income-generating activities. They provide a safety net to families during difficult times (Bradley, 2009). According to Poverty Environment Partnership (2005), between 20% and 58% of household income derive from common access resources including fuel wood, fishery, and resources provided by the mangroves (with heavier reliance among poorer households). Amongst the poor, a quarter depended solely on fishery and forestry products for over half of their income in 2004 (WB, 2006). World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz said, “Improving the management of forests, land, and other natural resources is essential for the well-being of the Cambodian people and its economy, and the Bank should try to stay engaged to promote further dialogue and information disclosure to help build consensus for the future.”

The country’s economy is strongly dependent on natural resources, and agriculture is one of the resources for generating employment, income and potential foreign trades. Improving infrastructure is a way to boost agricultural productivity. Farms with access to markets in their villages have 26% higher crop yields than those without. Farms closer to roads also have higher yields; reducing the distance from a village to an all-weather-road by one km raises productivity by about 30,000 Riel/ha (WB, 2006). Furthermore, lack of irrigation

systems is a commonly cited constraint to improved agricultural productivity. With

improved integrated land and water resource management, taking land-use change,

deforestation and climate change into account, there are opportunities to improve

agricultural productivity, employment rates, and livelihood opportunities.

Inserey (2013) stated that, agriculture, led by rice farming, contributes to roughly one-third of the country’s GDP and has immense potential for strengthening Cambodia’s economic growth, accelerating poverty reduction, and improving the living standard of its citizens. As part of this agenda, in 2010, the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) adopted a new Policy Paper on Paddy Production and Rice Export, better known as the Rice Policy, to promote diversification of Cambodia’s economic sectors by catalyzing growth in paddy rice production and milled rice export to match the growth seen in the garment and service sectors. In his keynote address at the policy’s launch, Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen said: “The policy aims to ensure that we grab the rare opportunity to develop Cambodia in the post global financial and economic cataclysm.”

If Cambodia’s rice export sector were to reach its full potential, it could produce 3 million tons of milled rice, with the total export value amounting to $2.1 billion (approximately 20% of the GDP) and an estimated additional $600 million (approximately 5% of the GDP) to the national economy. It would also raise employment and income for agricultural farmers who make up larger than 70 percent of the population living in rural areas (Inserey, 2013).

Given the priority to poverty alleviation, food security, environmentally friendly sustainable

growth, and integration in global competitiveness, the principle of equitable agricultural

development would focus on the following components:

• Maintenance of an appropriate macro-economic and policy framework, and a favorable legal, and institutional arrangement,

• Accelerated and sustainable irrigation development,

• Accelerated program for titling and distribution of unused agricultural land which is under Ministry of agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF),

• Development of an export market for rice and other agricultural products, and processing and product quality control facilities,

• Strengthening essential agricultural support services and functions including extension, research and development, marketing, credit and input distribution, and

• Expansion of livestock production with emphasis on animal health services, nutrition and range management and establishment of meat processing plants.

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