The government of Cambodia has implemented several new policy instruments established under the 2001 Land Law, especially Social Land Concessions (distribution of state private lands to the poor) and Economic Land Concessions (long-term contracts for plantation-type developments on state private lands). The latter relates especially to forest-covered areas of the State asset. For this study, surveys were conducted in Chamkar Andong, Krek and Tumring rubber plantations to assess the livelihood of local populations and the impacts of different forms of land conversion. The results show significant changes in people’s livelihoods from forest dependence to sell their labor. The study makes use of secondary data and the results of the field surveys to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of two land conversion schemes. First, is the conversion of forestland to large-scale rubber plantations in Tumring commune, Sandan district, Kampong Thom province. Second, is the conversion of crop production (cassava, soybean, maize and cashew) to smallholder rubber plantations in several districts of Kampong Cham province. The study offers several suggestions to the government as the basis for determining its strategic approach to land and agricultural development. The present value of the net benefits of forest conservation was estimated at USD 14,575 per ha over a 25-year period assuming a 10% discount rate. The net benefits of large-scale and smallholder rubber plantations were estimated at USD 15,690 and USD 7,661 respectively over the same period. The net benefits of other orchard crops were much lower at USD 1,416; USD 785; USD 584; USD 2,270 for cassava, soybean, maize and cashew respectively. The cost-benefit analysis considered the following five options to estimate the incremental net benefit of each conversion scheme. The incremental net benefits of the five conversion schemes were then ranked to identify the one with the highest incremental net benefit. There was no assessment of the monetary value of the change in people’s livelihood.

  • Option 1: Conversion from forest land to large-scale rubber plantation
  • Option 2: Conversion from cassava production to smallholder rubber plantation
  • Option 3: Conversion from soybean production to smallholder rubber plantation
  • Option 4: Conversion from maize production to smallholder rubber plantation
  • Option 5: Conversion from cashew production to smallholder rubber plantation

The result of the cost-benefit analysis showed clearly that the conversion from crop production (maize, soybean, cassava, and cashew) to smallholder rubber plantation provides the largest benefit to farmers involved in those conversion schemes. The conversion of forestland into large-scale rubber plantation ranks last in economic terms. Four sensitivity analyses were undertaken which demonstrated that despite varying key basic assumptions, the ranking of all crops and forest conversion schemes remained unchanged. The study clearly reveals that smallholder rubber plantations represents the most desirable land use from an economic viewpoint, compared with other forms of crop production (cassava, soybean, maize and cashew).

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Rubber Plantation Development in Cambodia: At What Cost?