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Land grabbing and hidden hunger threaten Cambodia's small farmers

Without land, no crops - and without variety, no healthy nutrition

Small farmers in Cambodia have learned what good nutrition is. But foreign investors are threatening to undo the success.

Romas Phas from the village of Dal Veal Leng knows how important a balanced diet is for her family. © Bingemann
Romas Phas from the village of Dal Veal Leng knows how important a balanced diet is for her family. © Bingemann

(20.10.2014) Rice has long determined the daily menu of Romas Phas. For many people here in the north east of Cambodia that still applies today. From the outside, the majority look healthy – as is so often the case with hidden hunger. As a result, no-one notices that they are lacking in essential vitamins and minerals.

A balanced diet is colourful and varied

Today, the 30-year-old small farmer knows how she can better provide for herself and her children. This is because Romas is one of 20 women from the village of Dal Veal Leng who took part in the nutrition course at the Centre d’Etude et de Developpement Agricole Cambodgien (CEDAC), the local partner organisation of Welthungerhilfe. In doing so, she said goodbye to beliefs that had been passed down from generations, from mother to daughter. “I was told that I should not eat bananas, jackfruit, mangos, red fish and red and yellow foods in general”, she remembers. “Today I know that these foods contain a lot of nutrients and would have been good for me and my children.” Romas has been planting fruit trees close to her house for the last couple of years. She is growing leafy vegetables, tomatoes, papayas and sweet potatoes. Her chickens enrich the family meals and bring additional income as some of the eggs can be sold. 

The wood and its abundance of soft rubber plantations. © Hagemeyer
The wood and its abundance of soft rubber plantations. © Hagemeyer

Rubber plantations instead of wild herbs

The people in the village of Dal Veal Leng benefit from the knowledge of the women. And it is not only the nutrition of the village residents that has become more varied, but the hygiene conditions have also improved as the people renovated their well and built new latrines. However, Romas and the other women are still worried: The award of land rights by the Cambodian government is only advancing slowly. Part of the land that Romas and her family have cultivated for years has, meanwhile, been signed over by the government to a private investor. He cleared the forest and planted another rubber plantation there.  

Since then, the appearance of wild animals and wild edible plants has dramatically decreased. The small gardens can partly compensate the loss, but Romas must buy more food – particularly meat. In order to keep the land fertile, it requires regular fallow periods. The land which Romas still has is not enough to compensate the occurring losses. The successes and achievements of the village are in danger.

The Global Hunger Index 2014 reports about the story of Romas and her village.

The aid measures are financially supported by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).



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Information about the project

Activity in the Ratanakiri province: since 2005 

Work focus: LANN (Linking Agriculture, Natural Resource Management and Nutrition), land rights  

Aim of the project: The indigeneous population in 30 villages produces sufficient food and income, improves the hygienic conditions, has access to water and is in the position to represent and protect its economic and social interests. In total 1,872 families and 8,902 people will benefit. 

Financing: through the funds of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)  

Duration: Extended until April 2015