The Prime Minister wants Cambodia to become a major exporter of rice. The problem is, that in order to do this the government is giving large land concessions to foreign investors, and this is done by grabbing up large tracts of land from small farmers who cannot afford the “Title Deeds”. Most small farmers cannot pay this fee as it costs about $700 to register half a hectare (a little more than an acre).
Land grabbing is also fuel for industrial development, with grants attracting the investors who make government facilitators rich, and antagonize the vast majority of poor Cambodians. If there is an “Arab Spring” in Cambodia this will be the cause.
I know how to stop this, and at the same time help poor Cambodian farmers prosper. I’m a farmer. I grew up on a farm, got a degree in Agronomy, and an advanced degree from the International Rice Research Institute. The answer is in rice production cooperatives.
FCOP knows how to make Cambodia a rice exporter and keep the land in the hands of small Cambodian farmers. Forty-three years ago I was in the midst of a three year stint working in Laos setting up rice production cooperatives. I spent 10 years working for one of the largest Agricultural Cooperatives in the US, “Growmark”. This is before I entered ministry.
Virtually all of the rice land in Cambodia is capable of raising three crops of high yielding rice per year. Thirty tons per hectare is achievable verses the current two tons, but it requires land consolidation, flood control, irrigation, fertilization, improved varieties, liming, pest and disease control, and modern equipment.
We’re getting close with our small operation but the way to change national production is through cooperatives. One farmer with two hectares can never get this done, but 100 farmers with 200 hectares can. Each farmer would own stock in the cooperative according to their land contribution. Since Cambodian farmers all live in villages, where they can still raise gardens, crickets, mushrooms or quail, as well as work for the cooperative, this is not a physical problem of moving people. The problem is simply getting them to work together. How? I have not figured that out yet. Pray.