Land rights abuses in Cambodia rarely spill into the global spotlight, particularly in connection with food insecurity. In the absence of legal documents often lost or destroyed during decades of civil war, Cambodian farmers frequently struggle to prove their ownership of land. Many of these farmers along with Cambodian NGOs have accused Cambodia’s government of awarding a wave of land concessions to foreign and local firms without negotiation or adequate compensation to local farmers. What’s more, Cambodian farmers and villagers have been unjustly evicted from their land as a consequence of international big business.
Earlier today, AlertNet reported that Cambodian rights groups and farmers are urging foreign donors who have played a major role in the development of Cambodia’s economy to press the government to suspend land concessions to investors and use fair and lawful means to settle land disputes.
For several years, AJWS has been supporting grassroots organizations in Cambodia that work to secure land rights for local farmers and promote food sovereignty. Action for Development (AFD), an AJWS grantee, works with subsistence rice farmers to combat stark gender inequalities, high rates of illiteracy and debt and increasing landlessness. The organization aims to build gender equality in planning and decision-making, promote sustainable natural resource management, achieve the rights to health care and education and promote a transparent and just legal system with equal access and protection. AJWS funds AFD’s “Sustainable Livelihoods for Poor Farmers” project to promote sustainable agriculture techniques, small-scale businesses and community-based natural resources management.
It’s unclear what the future of securing land rights in Cambodia looks like, but it’s clear that the work of grassroots organizations is paramount to creating a transparent legal process to ensure that land rights cases are dealt with equitably.