CCFC Farmers member join LANDLESS DAY 29 March 2017

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Community members of CCFC at Sihanuk Province Takeo Province joint NO LAND NO LIFE Campaign.
Coalition of Cambodia Farmer Community | 29 March 2017

CCFC Farmers member join LANDLESS DAY 29 March 2017
 
Since early 1993, the Cambodian Government has conceded large chunks of land to private companies for investments in plantations and large-scale agriculture. Over years, an increasing number of ELCs have been granted. These concessions have adversely affected the human rights and livelihoods of Cambodia’s rural communities. Several reports along the years have found that concessions had been detrimental to the livelihoods of rural communities, who had drawn little benefit from these concessions and had no effective remedy or recourse when their rights were infringed or violated. However, economic land concessions (ELCs) have continued to be seen as a vehicle for economic development in Cambodia, although their economic benefit to the country and its people is not evident.
 
In May 2012, the Government issued Directive 001, which established a moratorium on the issuance of new concessions and ordered authorities to scrutinize existing ones[1]. As a result, in August 2014, the Government decided to create an Inter-Ministerial Commission led by the Deputy Prime Minister, H.E Bin Chhin in order to inspect, demarcate and assess 230 Economic Land Concessions.  In February 2016, the Prime Minister declared an end to the government’s review of Cambodia’s ELCs, pledging that nearly 1 million hectares of the re-appropriated property would be handed over to poor families[2]. However, it remains unclear which State institution is in charge of the excised land from ELCs. Precise information about the excised land in each ELC (geospatial coordinates) is not easily available and accessible. Meanwhile, the government has publicly announced that the term of all ELCs would be reduced to 50 years.
 
In February 2016, the Inter-Ministerial Commission to Inspect, Demarcate and Assess Economic Land Concessions completed its review on ELCs. According to media reports, a total of 230 land concession projects were reviewed by the commission. 117 of these ELCs (1,181,522 hectares) were under the responsibility of the Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), and 113 ELCs and other concessions (646,296.75 hectares) are under the responsibility of the Ministry of Environment (MoE). The Commission has been since dissolved. No official report has been issued on its work.  According to Open Development Cambodia (ODC), up to 257 ELCs are  found as of January 2017:
  • 32 ELCs had been revoked
  • 134 ELCs had no evidence of adjustment
  • 4 ELCs had been downsized after being revoked
  • 87 ELCs (established between June 2003 and July 2016) had been downsized (the most recent downsizing being Lan Feng (Cambodia) International Company Ltd.)
Since 2012 till now, CCFC has been operating its projects with farmers and communities in many provinces such as Preah Sihanouk, Kandal, Kampot, Svay Rieng, Kampong Speu, Prey Veng, Takeo. In total, there are 23 land communities that CCFC has been working with. The householders in these communities have faced a numbers of issues including land conflict, food shortage, lack of technical skills and knowledge.  In above-mentioned area, approximately,  ​​11,985 hectares of land possessed by 5,952 families have been in conflicts. The land conflicts have lasted almost ten years without proper solutions. Factors of land disputes have been caused by the government’s decision for development purpose and in format of economic land concession without transparency, accountability, equality, and impact assessment. The solution to the land conflicts has been routinely made in favor of the rich and powerful people. While the problems have not been resolved for years, the local communities are difficult to access to their land to cultivate for livelihood. This cause has forced them to migrate for jobs and have left women, elders and children at home. According CCFC’s project ended evaluation in 2016, the youth represents about 20 to 30% of the total population in a village. They have now been leaving their communities for jobs in garment factories and other sectors. The report reiterated that 80% of elder people have been left staying home to take care of the kids As the land conflict in their communities has remained unsolved, the communities people have exercised  their rights for advocacy purpose through means such as complaints, petitions, peaceful demonstration, protest, and rally in front of public institutions in order to seek the solutions. Reversely, in response to the community movement, the authorities and private companies, have used the court system to intimidate and arrest community activists.  Since 2006, the community activists have been threatened to arrest, detained or charged with criminal offences without reasonable evidence. Due to this, activists are concerned about their securities. The land grabbers continue to use the judiciary system to file encounter criminal complaint against activists or active members of communities.  The courts always actively respond to the powerful persons’ complaint even if they do not enough evidences or substantiate information by issuing  warrant arrest  or detention warrant for activists. In the CCFC’s targeted areas, the communities people lack understanding of their basic rights. Their rights are not respected and protected by duties bears. Additionally, they have hardly been exposed to any training on human rights. Lack of understanding the human rights, CCFC see as a challenge to the community empowerment in exercising their legal rights for the sake of the communities.
 
The livelihoods of the targeted communities including Svay Reang, Prey Veng, Kondal, Takeo, and Preah Sihanuok, Kompot, and Tabuong Kmum provinces have faced difficulties due to a number of reasons. Most of the beneficiaries have no skills to make income. Each household ranges in size from 2 to 7 family members. The average Cambodian household has roughly 5 members.  Regarding education level, after graduating from grade 12, young adults are often forced to give up their pursuit of a higher education due to their families’ poor living conditions, which necessitate that they begin working to generate income. As a result, some have migrated to urban areas of Cambodia or to neighboring countries such as Thailand for work. Some look for low-skilled jobs in the garment industry, or the construction and entertainment sectors. Families living in target communities often have subsistence living conditions dependent on farming and fishing. Most family farms do not produce enough crops to meet the family’s dietary needs for the full year, and the average individual family in this area faces an annual food shortage ranging from 4 to 6 months. Most of these families take out small loans from microfinance institutions, usually ranging from $500 to $ 3,000 per family. This money is used to cover ploughing fees, land purchases, agricultural inputs, harvest-related expense and other farming costs. Depending on market prices, farming yields may not be enough to cover the capital invested in labor for the harvest. This was especially true in 2016, which saw a drastic fall in prices for rice, the country’s primary crop. In struggling to improve their living standard, some families have started new initiatives to complement their farming, including chicken raising, home-gardening, cattle raising, harvest of non-timber forest products, production of charcoal, small-scaling carpentry, and construction in order to produce income to help cover their family’s annual food shortage period. However, many families lack technical knowledge of these livelihoods and have difficulty affording the inputs required, and, as a result, most family chicken-raising and home gardening efforts have substantial room for improvement in terms of production capacity and quality.
 
The sixth version of the law draft of agricultural land management strongly restricts land possessor, landowners and indigenous people in using their land in order to produce the crops and products are a necessity for the people’s daily needs. The restrictions in the draft, restricts that owners needs to register their land, their usage and the management of the classified agricultural area.  Additionally, disciplinary action such as fines and punishments will be imposed to owners of land if their area is left uncultivated. This action is contradictory to the article 5, “Owners” containing in the glossary of land and law and to article 44 of the constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia. The result of the sixth draft law will result in a monopoly of rights and will give great opportunities to the private sector, businessmen and the rich elite of Cambodia. This law will give the before mentioned economic land concession, possible agricultural land renting, and classified areas of agricultural development. With effect from the drafted law on regulations of the land, the farmers would have lost one’s own land. Additionally, natural resource would have been harmed by execution of the law. Small landholders will face their production being overruled by big companies, this will be a result of the law.   Finally, the law that has been drafted will affect the small landholders in being in the position where they will be forced to either, rent or sell their land to private actors. This action will result in a massive migration to bigger cities and neighboring countries. The suggested law will not help reduce the poverty of small landholders and farmers in Cambodia. Therefor the advocacy actions are very necessary to put a big focus on so that there can be made changes to the draft in order to avoid the impact on the livelihood of the farmers and indigenous people.
Original source: CCFC
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