Researchers from the Centre for Policy Studies yesterday asked the government to allocate or lease cancelled Economic Land Concessions of more than five hectares to small and medium-sized farmers to improve their livelihoods.
The request was made during a workshop in Phnom Penh on preliminary results on land allocation policies for small and medium-sized farmers.
The centre conducted a two-year study with field surveys at the sites of some Economic Land Concessions that the government revoked; it also consulted with relevant ministries and institutions.
It surveyed 501 families in Mondulkiri, Ratanakkiri, Stung Treng, Oddar Meanchey and Preah Vihear provinces who are in need of land to cultivate their crops.
Chan Sophal, director of the centre, said that in the past the government has granted Social Land Concessions to people on plots of land three to five hectares large, which was too small for families to grow enough crops to support their livelihoods.
“If people are able to cultivate more than five hectares of land, their livelihoods will be improved,” he said. “With this reality, we request that for the remaining state land within the revoked Economic Land Concessions, the government should consider granting land or leasing it to small and medium-sized farmers to use it effectively for generating income, improving their livelihoods and also contributing to economic growth.”
Ngan Nany, the Agriculture Ministry’s deputy secretary general, said that in 2016 ministry officials participated in a feasibility study of policy options to allocate agricultural land in some provinces and the possibility of leasing former ELCs to small and medium-sized farmers.
Mr Nany said that the policy aimed at giving more agricultural land to farmers so that they could boost their incomes and increase productivity, while also reducing land conflicts, grabbing and squatting.
“The ministry welcomes this study and the ministry will check its findings as input to set up policies, a master plan and other programmes,” he said.
Chea Sopheak, a representative of a farmer network in Kampong Speu province who attended the workshop, said that he wanted the government to grant fertile land to farmers to cultivate mixed crops so that they could boost their livelihoods.
“I strongly believe that granting land to small and medium-sized farmers is better than leasing it to them,” Mr Sopheak said.
The government has granted ELCs to 330 companies, but cancelled 101 with a total land space of 748,064 hectares of land due to their inactivity.