restricted access 8. Impediments to Improving the Standard of Living of Farmers
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197 Chapter 8 Impediments to Improving the Standard of Living of Farmers 8.1. Landlessness In 2004, half of rural households, or well over a million rural families, owned less than 0.5 ha of arable land. Because of the uneconomic size of the landholding, some farmers might have sold their land in order to take jobs in sectors outside of agriculture. In general, a family that owns between a half to three quarters of a ha of average-fertility cropland can earn an annual income of $300 to $400, provided that the rice yield is 2 tons a ha and the price of paddy is $200 a ton. Arable land accounts for about 20% of the total area of the country. A reduction in the average size of land plots is observed as the number of families increases due to demographic growth. 90% of the plots are less than 0.5 ha and 75% of farms are less than 1.0 ha. According to a study by Oxfam (2006), landless farmers account for 25% of rural households, while the Socio-economic Survey of Cambodia (SESC-2003-04), which is more representative, identified 25% of the population in the agricultural and non-agricultural sectors as being landless. A survey of farming households suggested that 12% of farmers were landless (Biddulph 2000, Biddulph 2004). It is obvious that the concentration of land wealth strengthened and accelerated between 1999 and 2004. The SESC-2003-04 found that in 2004, households owning less than 0.5 ha account for only 5.4% of arable land, while those who hold more than 3 ha own 48% of the land. It is estimated that 10% of landowners own 40% of the land. A growing concentration of land could allow agricultural modernization through the improvement of economies of scale and the use of advanced technologies. However, the secondary and tertiary sectors in Cambodia, despite the robust growth of tourism, textile exports, and construction, have no obvious capacity to absorb the rural exodus of great magnitude, at least in the medium term. Consequently, the growing concentration of land could result in stubborn rural poverty and growing unrest in the urban sector. Reproduced from Cambodian Economy: Charting the Course of a Brighter Future. A Survey of Progress, Problems and Prospects by Hang Chuon Naron (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2012). This version was obtained electronically direct from the publisher on condition that copyright is not infringed. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior permission of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. Individual articles are available at 198 A study by Oxfam (2004) of 797 land disputes in 23 provinces and municipalities of Cambodia revealed that 36% of the disputes involved plantations, 32% cultivated land, and 26% construction sites. This study showed that 71% of the cases involved people with no land title, 24% were owners who claimed the land based on registry receipts and only 5% of the owners had property titles. 8.2. Inputs Supply 8.2.1. Water for Agriculture The key input for the growth of agricultural productivity is water. Good quality seed and chemical fertilizer, skillful management of farms, use of modern equipment and good soil fertility cannot contribute to high yields of rice if proper water management is lacking. Rice yields have varied considerably in recent yars and correlate closely to climatic conditions. In 2008, the average rice yield in Cambodia reached a historic record of 2.7 tons per ha, due mainly to the good level of rainfall and irrigation systems put in place by the government. According to the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, in 2006, the area of irrigated rice land accounted for 29% of the total rice-growing area, compared with an annual average of 20% during the five preceding years. However, the entirely irrigated ricegrowing area during the dry season reached only 11%, or 300,000 ha. The reason for lack of investment in and under-use of irrigation system capacity is the low financial return from irrigation projects. Nevertheless, irrigation projects do have a high economic and social return if the social benefits for the communities, most importantly their income-generating capacity, are factored in. Government has been emphasizing irrigation development as a strategy to tackle rural backwardness. Investments by the government in irrigation projects have increased by an annual average of 2% during 20032006 and reached $10 million in 2006. A recent study of irrigation systems showed that water pumping...


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