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Développement de bases de données foncières au Cambodge

L'information en matière de régimes fonciers et d'utilisation des sols est essentielle à la conception, à la mise en œuvre et à la supervision des politiques gouvernementales régissant le développement agricole et rural dans les pays en développement. Dans le cas de pays sortant d'un conflit comme le Cambodge, les moyens dont dispose l'État afin de faire appel aux ressources humaines et financières en vue d'assurer la collecte, le stockage et l'analyse des données sont souvent réduits. Cet article s'attache à déterminer le rôle que les données foncières peuvent être amenées à jouer en matière de détermination des stratégies, et identifie les sites éventuellement appropriés à des fins de collecte et de stockage de ces mêmes données au Cambodge. Les critères d'évaluation des sites institutionnels en matière de collecte et de stockage de données sont la fiabilité, l'accessibilité, l'interopérabilité, la comparabilité, la capacité de mise à jour et le rapport coût-efficacité. L'article conclut qu'un recensement agricole périodique finit par représenter l'option la plus viable du fait qu'elle est non seulement prescrite par la loi, mais qu'elle bénéficie aussi de l'appui des parties prenantes principales, y compris des donateurs multilatéraux.

Desarrollo de la base de datos de titularidad territorial en Camboya

La información sobre la titularidad territorial y la utilización de la tierra es fundamental para el diseño, la implantación y la supervision de las políticas públicas que rigen el desarrollo agrario y rural en los países en desarrollo. En el caso de los países que han sufrido conflictos como Camboya, la capacidad del Estado de movilizar unos recursos humanos y financieros suficientes para recoger, guardar y analizar datos es por lo general muy reducida. Este artículo examina la función de los datos de titularidad territorial en las políticas, e identifica las hipótesis adecuadas para la recogida y el almacenamiento de dichos datos en Camboya. Los criterios de recogida y almacenamiento de los datos comprenden la fiabilidad, la accesibilidad, la compatibilidad, la comparación, la capacidad de actualización y la eficacia en relación con el coste. El artículo concluye que un censo agrario planificado representa la opción más sostenible, ya que no tan sólo cumple los requisitos jurídicos sino que es respaldado por los interesados clave, entre los que están los donantes multilaterales.

Land tenure database development in Cambodia

B. Ballard
Brett M. Ballard, Acting Research Director, Cambodia Development Resource Institute, Phnom Penh, Cambodia


Information about land tenure and land use is central to the design, implementation and monitoring of public policies governing agricultural and rural development in developing countries. In the case of post-conflict countries such as Cambodia, the capacity of the state to mobilize sufficient human and financial resources to collect, house and analyse data is often diminished. This article examines the role that land tenure data can play in policy-making, and identifies potentially suitable venues for collecting and housing such data in Cambodia. The criteria for assessing institutional venues for data collection and housing include reliability accessibility, interoperability comparability capacity of updating and cost effectiveness. The article concludes that a scheduled agricultural census represents the most sustainable option over time because it is not only mandated by law but enjoys support among key stakeholders, including multilateral donors.

Land tenure arrangements form the core of agrarian Systems in the rural economies of developing countries. These Systems are composed of (a) an agrarian structure characterized by the distribution of land ownership and operational land holdings (i.e. land use); and (b) agrarian institutions characterized by informal and formal rules governing the social and economic organization of land (property rights) and labour (contracts). The formulation and enforcement of rules governing property rights and contracts are functions of public policy, as the state plays a significant role in shaping the interaction among natural environments, land/labour endowments, technology and markets. Over time, the distribution and productive use of land are subject to fluctuations in prevailing socio-economic and political trends, as well as episodic events such as revolution and war. In this sense, the policy arrangements governing land tenure must be considered in the wider context of history.1

Information about land tenure, land use and production is central to the design, implementation and monitoring of public policies governing agricultural and rural development in developing countries. It is generally understood that the state has a comparative advantage over other sectors (e.g. civil society, donors) in terms of collecting and housing accurate data over time. In the case of post-conflict countries such as Cambodia, however, the capacity of the state to mobilize sufficient human and financial resources to perform such functions accurately and consistently is often diminished. As a result, other institutions, such as civil society organizations, international donors and private companies, may fill the information void by undertaking research specific to their own needs.

Inconsistent and inaccurate data collection by state authorities and sporadic collection by other institutions result in conflicting and confusing data, which are invariably difficult to integrate with one another. The design and implementation of relevant and effective public policy are thereby undermined. Moreover, poorly organized land tenure data Systems can promote counterproductive and socially disruptive practices in land management, such as land grabbing and encroachments upon public land by landless migrants. In this sense, the implementation and enforcement of official land management policies and practices requires a well-organized and reliable land tenure and land use database System.

The FAO Land Tenure Service has contracted the Cambodia Development Resource Institute (CDRI) to conduct a review of land tenure databases to support policy-making in agricultural and rural development in Cambodia. CDRI was tasked to identify the role that land tenure data can play in policy-making, and potential institutional venues for collecting and housing such information. This article reports on CDRI's observations.


The current problems associated with land tenure rights and land administration in Cambodia can be largely traced to the civil conflict, war and radical collectivization polices implemented by the Khmer Rouge regime of Democratic Kampuchea (DK) during 1975–1979. These problems include the mass dislocation of both urban and rural populations during three more or less distinct phases. First, many people abandoned their land to seek refuge in Phnom Penh as fighting intensified prior to 1975. Second, people were forced to migrate from urban areas to various rural areas throughout the country, or from one rural area to another, during the period 1975–1979. Third, many people sought refuge in Thailand and overseas following the collapse of the DK regime in early 1979. During this period, cadastral records and maps were destroyed and most professionals either died or fled the country.

During the post-DK period in the 1980s, ail land was considered state property. It is commonly believed that agricultural land was farmed collectively in small groups (krom samaki), while households were allocated residential use rights on the basis of occupation. In practice, however, the implementation of the krom samaki policy varied from place to place. In some areas, people returned to their original land and farmed individually as early as 1979, thus bypassing the krom samaki System. In other areas, land was farmed collectively for several years and was then informally divided among villagers at the local level, using various methods and criteria for distribution. In certain areas, security was a major factor that influenced when a village might initiate a land distribution. In terms of documentation, some villages recorded the distribution outcomes by hand, but in most cases such records were not kept or were subsequently lost.

In 1989, the Government of the State of Cambodia (SOC) reintroduced private property rights through Instruction Number 3, along with Sub-decree 25. Among other provisions, the sub-decree established ownership rights for residential land up to 2 000 square metres, and possession rights for cultivated land of less than five hectares. With the enactment of the 1992 Land Law, people were able to apply for land certificates that confirmed occupancy and use rights, although the law allowed only possession rights rather than ownership in rural areas. According to the Department of Cadastre and Geography, not more than 14 percent of the estimated 4.5 million applicants have received formal certificates of ownership since the early 1990s (Chan and Sarthi, 2001). Among other difficulties, the cadastral System has been ill-equipped and underresourced to manage even modest workloads. In some parts of the country, security was also a significant factor, as fighting between the Khmer Rouge insurgents and government forces continued up until 1998. Government offices at the district and commune level, as well as village chiefs, were sometimes attacked, and in some cases cadastral records were once again destroyed.

The new Land Law of 2002 was passed largely in recognition of the fact that progress towards economic and social development requires a System of strengthened land tenure rights, as well as improved land management and administration. The law recognizes three domains of land ownership in Cambodia: state public property (e.g. forests, protected areas) for resource conservation, state private property for economic and social development and private property (e.g. residential or agricultural land). Within the private domain, ownership can be individual, communal, undivided or by co-ownership.

Land management: structure and organization

The Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction (MLMUPC) is primarily responsible for land management and explicitly responsible for cadastral affairs. These responsibilities include the development of land policy, land registration and improving the management of state land, which involves oversight of the granting of social concessions, which are in turn carried out at the provincial level through the provincial Departments of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction. The Council for Land Policy (CLP) is an intergovernmental body that includes key stakeholders concerned with land policy and management. The CLP was created in order to coordinate policy-making and strengthen and coordinate the design, implementation and monitoring of land management policy in Cambodia (CLP, 2002).

Land management also involves a number of other key stakeholders whose roles and jurisdictions are often overlapping and not clearly delineated. For example, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) is primarily responsible for agricultural development, which includes oversight of economic land concessions. The Ministry of Environment (MoE), meanwhile, is responsible for managing and protecting environmentally sensitive areas such as national parks. The military controls large areas of land in military development zones. Some of this land is intended for demobilized soldiers, including former Khmer Rouge soldiers, while other land has been granted to private companies as economic land concessions (see COHCHR, 2004). This lack of clarity creates confusion regarding decisions about state land management and, in some cases, contributes to competition among different ministries and departments. This in turn undermines the state's ability to implement land policy decisions and monitor land use. Such confusion is exacerbated when provincial and even local authorities also enter into parallel agreements regarding various land concessions, or authorize land transactions involving multiple claimants.


In this section, we identify several areas where the systematic collection of land tenure data in Cambodia can be useful to policy-makers.

Guarantees of ownership and security of tenure

At present, in the absence of clearly defined administrative roles and legal procedures, and in the absence of accurate and well-organized land tenure data, different levels of the administration sometimes provide different types of documents to various claimants. As a result, certain land parcels at any one time may have two or more rival claimants - ail producing some kind of documentation to legitimize their claim. Such cases tend to occur more frequently in areas where land use is changing (e.g. agricultural land being converted to commercial or industrial uses) and land values are increasing for one reason or another.

A well-organized and maintained land tenure database is essential for protecting people's ownership and/or contractual use rights in both rural and urban areas. In order to be effective and reliable, the database must include the name of the owner, information about the area and boundaries (measured and mapped) of individual plots and reference to land use. However, such documents cannot by themselves guarantee ownership rights and tenure security. It is ultimately up to the state to establish and uphold clear procedures for validating claims, providing legal enforcement of property rights and managing efficient and transparent transfers (e.g. sales and inheritances) and contracts (for example, leasing arrangements).

State land management

Chapter Five of the 1992 Land Law addressed the concept and practice of land concessions. The main rationale for granting state land, including forests, to private companies has been to stimulate private enterprise, contribute to state revenue and reduce poverty in rural areas. There are three kinds of concessions: economic land concessions for commercial agricultural exploitation of land; social concessions for residential construction of subsistence cultivation; and “others” (including mining, ports and fishing concessions) that are outside the provisions of the Land Law.

Economic land concessions

The government has granted (or is negotiating) approximately 64 economic land concessions to private companies in order to promote the large-scale development of ostensibly unused, or underutilized land (COHCHR, 2004). Ail concessions have been awarded at the national level on the basis of unsolicited bids, with little or no prior consultation with local authorities or people living in villages that may be adversely affected. In some areas, local villagers have been forcibly deprived of access to land that they historically used for cultivation or collecting of non-timber forest products. In some cases involving ethnic minorities, ancestral burial grounds have been violated, while in other cases the indiscriminate use of chemical herbicides and pesticides has reportedly resulted in illness.

International donors and civil society organizations have criticized the practices, if not the policies, associated with these land concessions in terms of human rights abuses and environmental damage associated with at least some of the projects. Recently, there have been several well-publicized local protests against companies implementing these concessions, and some have resulted in violence. In response to such problems and donor pressures, as well as concerns that some concessions are not at ail productive, the government has formulated and recently circulated a draft sub-decree on economic land concessions in order to clarify and strengthen grant procedures and improve management.

There are two general areas in which land tenure and land use data are important with regard to economic land concessions. The first area concerns local people's traditional access to and control over land resources, whether this involves farming households claiming individual use and ownership rights or indigenous communities claiming communal use and ownership rights. Many of the economic land concessions have overlapped with household or community claims to land. A land tenure database could be useful in this regard, though only to the extent that it actually included data on affected households and communities. Such data would have to exist already exist, or be available at the time a concession is granted. To be workable, such a System also assumes that the relevant authorities would uphold such claims. Although the current draft sub-decree refers to an “environmental and social impact assessment concerning land use and development plans”, there is no explicit reference to how conflicting land claims, whether household or communal, would be resolved. The second area concerns the most effective and efficient development approach in the agriculture sector. The comparison between large-scale plantation and agribusiness approaches to development with smallholder producers is ultimately a researchable question. A third alternative, involving contract-farming approaches, could also be included in such research. However, this kind of evidenced-based policy research requires accurate and reliable land tenure and land use data, as well as production data. These kinds of data requirements, however, may be most effectively met through specific single-purpose research activities.

Social land concessions

A Social Concessions Sub-Decree adopted in March 2003 essentially creates a mechanism for the transfer of state private land to people with little or no land for farming and residential purposes. The increasing level of landlessness and rural-urban migration has resulted in people taking up residence on state public land, for example in Phnom Penh and other urban areas. This development has in turn prompted action for resettlement for the urban poor and social land concessions for the rural poor. Accurate land tenure and land use data are required in order to plan and implement resettlements more effectively through social land concessions. Biddulph (2004), for example, has observed that there is significant difference between “land being vacant and it being available and potentially desirable for Social Land Concessions”. In one case, land in the village of Dangkat Knung had already been marked and cleared, but the military in the area also claimed the same land. Elsewhere, village authorities reported that certain large areas of forest (including old hardwood forest) were vacant, but the regulations governing land use in forested areas had to be considered. In terms of desirability, some land that had been set aside for urban resettlements was of poor soil quality and not fit for productive farming. In cases where resettled people could not develop sustainable incomes, they tended to return to their previous areas or migrated elsewhere. Landmines may be another important concern in certain areas of the country.

Communal property

A comprehensive land tenure and land use database should also include specific reference to communal tenure arrangements. The Land Law of 2002 introduces the concept of indigenous communal property as a form of property ownership and recognizes the community as a legal entity for land ownership. Among other provisions, the Law provides for the collective titling of indigenous lands. There are several significant constraints because the identification and actual demarcation of such lands are extremely difficult. Many of these areas are in sparsely populated parts of north and northeast Cambodia, where people have traditionally practised swidden cultivation.

A draft sub-decree on communal land rights has now been prepared and efforts to provide titles for communal land are under consideration. The process, however, is likely to spark controversy and perhaps further confLict. For example, communal boundaries will have to be surveyed and mapped. This process will require consensus among different levels of the administration as well as neighbouring communities. For example, what will be the institutional mechanisms at the village level for managing communal lands? What institutional arrangements will be implemented to enforce communal land rights against possible encroachment from outside interests?

Access to and control over productive land assets is crucial to both livelihoods and poverty reduction. Approximately 36 percent of Cambodians live below the poverty line. Most of these people live in rural areas and depend on farming for ail or a substantial part of their livelihoods. If Cambodia is to be successful in reducing poverty, it is accepted that informed pro-poor policy, programming, and budgeting processes that can ensure harmony and better co-ordination will be required. The Government of Cambodia is preparing a National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP) for 2006–2010 and aligning it with Cambodia's Millennium Development Goals (CMDG). This planning is being undertaken within the framework of the government's “rectangular strategy”, one component of which concerns agricultural development. In order to be effective, the NSDP requires a monitoring and evaluation System that can assess progress and provide feedback to policy-makers. Such a System in turn requires a comprehensive set of performance indicators, including data regarding land tenure, land use and production. For example, agricultural production includes total per capita rice production and dry and wet season rice yields; environment and natural resources statistics include forest coverage and percentage of rural and urban land titles. Poverty and vulnerability indicators include the percentage of area contaminated by landmines and unexploded ordnance, as well as the percentage of planted areas destroyed by flood and drought.

Food security and targeting resources

One of the most important indicators of food security in rural areas is the amount and quality of land to which households have access and control over. For example, the number of landless and near-landless households is increasing by approximately 2 percent per year. These households face chronic food shortages because they are not able to produce enough rice for one year. In addition to the distribution of land, other factors are the distribution of labour, income and other assets with reference to the gender of the head of household. The collection and maintenance of land tenure and land use data, as well as production data, will enable government planners and donors to target resources more accurately in support of improved food security.

Natural resources and land use monitoring

Land tenure and land use data are essential for monitoring the impact of changes in land use on environmentally fragile and sensitive areas (e.g. Tonle Sap Lake). For example, where people have cut inundated forest in order to expand rice production, such practices have profoundly adverse effects on fisheries and local ecosystems. The collection and maintenance of land use data would enable policy-makers to monitor such practices and target areas where there have been no impr ovements.

Forest resources

Forests are another area of concern, as an increasing number of people are claiming forestland by clearing it and planting crops. In some cases, people are even obtaining land titles for such land from the provincial cadastral department, despite Department of Forestry regulations prohibiting such practices. In 2002, forests in Cambodia were classified into five groups: evergreen forest, semi-evergreen forest, deciduous forest, mangrove and other types of forest. Cambodia's total forest cover was estimated to be approximately 61 percent of the country's land area. However, the Ministry of Environment observes that “this figure is based on satellite imagery and does not give any indication of the quality of the forests or the types of plantations which have been included in the inventory” (MoE, 2005). In terms of land use management in forested areas, then, there are no reliable resource inventories and accurate maps available. There is also no standardized typology for different forest types, and different classifications result in confusing and confLicting analysis. Thus, a national forest inventory, classification and mapping project would be useful.

Water resources

The two ministries that are principally involved with water resource management, the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, do not have extensive data concerning water resources. Such data are vital for land use management and planning in matters such as medium and large irrigation and water resource infrastructure projects. Changes in land use patterns, such as forested areas that are cleared after economic land concession, may have an impact on groundwater flows and supplies. Watershed catchment management is also impeded by a lack of reliable data on land tenure and land use patterns, as well as on water resources. Certain types of agricultural practices, such as the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, may also affect downstream water quality.

Land tenure data are not only useful for monitoring the use of land, but also for promoting or expanding the operations of government, particularly local government. The 2002 election of Commune Councils established a lowest, i.e. most local, level of government in Cambodia. At this time, intergovernmental transfers are the only source of discretionary funds that can be used for local development projects. The Law on the Administration and Management of Commune/Sangkat authorizes the Commune Councils to establish their own source of revenue from three main sources: tax revenues, non-tax revenues and service fees. Such locally derived revenues would provide income to supplement national transfers and serve as a means for citizens to contribute to the costs of the local public services they receive.

Among other potential own-source revenues for Commune Councils, Eng and Rusten (2004) have suggested that a commune service levy could be collected as an “annual compulsory contribution” paid by commune residents. They suggest that the councils could collect the service levy from every household residence and business based on (a) the categories of land use (e.g. agricultural, residential, commercial) that each family and business own; (b) the classification of land size; and (c) the types and sizes of structures on the land. They observe that communes “must have access to reliable data and records on land and property in the communes”.

Land use planning and management in urban areas, including Phnom Penh municipality, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville, require accurate land tenure data. As a city's population grows owing to natural growth rate and immigration, and as the urban areas of the city continue to expand into the rural and peri-urban regions, competition among people, private companies and state institutions over access to and control over increasingly scarce land resources will grow. In this sense, the orderly and peaceful transfer of land from rural to urban land use patterns often implies a transition from state public land to private land. Such transfers require accurate and transparent data on land use and landowners. Already in certain rural areas of the municipality, land confLicts are emerging as a serious issue; some investors (sometimes in collusion with local officials) purchase land that is occupied by others. The capacity of local government to obtain revenues from such transfers through land transaction taxation also depends on an accurate database. Transportation is another area where accurate data are required. The city will need to develop transport infrastructure as it grows, and this will entail the use of state public land and in some cases the acquisition of private land. A just and accurate compensation for such land requires accurate data records. Similarly, data will be needed in order to deal with the issue of encroachments on state land by in-migrants who lack affordable housing.

Research and policy

Perhaps one of the most crucial aspects of policy formulation concerns research that links land tenure security to various components of the development process. For example, it is widely believed that land tenure security promotes investment in productive agricultural practices, including land improvements and capital inputs. Secure tenure is also widely considered to promote better access to formal credit. Therefore, land tenure databases should include as wide a range of factors as possible. For example, such databases should then be linked, or have the capacity to be linked, to various databases on such matters as agricultural production, productive assets and capital mobilization. The strength or weakness of these linkages will provide policy-makers with important insights as to what areas require more attention.


At this time, there are a limited number of options to consider. It is important to emphasize that none of the potential data-housing venues will be feasible in the near term owing to constraints associated with human capacity, financial resources, organizational capital and other factors. Some of the factors and criteria for assessing the suitability of potential institutional venues for data housing include interoperability across and linkages with other data sets; reliability (i.e. optimal accuracy); maximum policy relevance (i.e. utility); comparability across location and over time; capacity for updating; and cost effectiveness, for example in terms of human resources and finances (see Wallace and Williamson, 2004).

Commune council

Cambodia's commune councils might be one data-housing venue, though not in the near term. It is important to note that “own source” revenues will begin to figure more prominently in decentralization reform planning that supports greater authority and autonomy of the commune councils. This suggests that a tax or service levy System will become increasingly desirable, which may require an accurate land tenure database that can be regularly updated. In principle, then, the commune council may be a suitable institutional home for a land tenure database. In Cambodia, however, this approach is undermined by the lack of human and financial resources, and it is not realistic to think in terms of this in the near future.

In addition, such an initiative is currently politically sensitive, and will require a significant change in terms of the policy discourse in the country. Given recent promises by the Prime Minister not to impose any taxes on land, government administrators are understandably reluctant to propose anything that resembles such a tax. For example, of the four different types of own-source revenues that were recommended to the Ministry of Economy and Finance for piloting at the commune level, the service levy fee mentioned above was not authorized.

Another shortcoming concerns the difficulty of standardizing data collection and record keeping across ail communes in a way that can be aggregated at upper levels of the administration, which would be important for policy-making. Commune-based land tenure data would probably also not be easily used in conjunction with other data, particularly at the local level, thus reducing their general utility. In this sense, then, the comparability and interoperability of commune-based land tenure data may be low.

Cadastral office

The most extensive land tenure database is currently maintained by the National Cadastral Office in the MLMUPC. This database aggregates data from ail the provinces and is thus a more or less national database. Moreover, as the MLMUPC's Land Management and Administration Project (LMAP) systematic land-titling project progresses, this database will expand significantly.

The LMAP project, however, is not comprehensive in terms of its geographical reach, and as a result there will continue to be significant gaps in the cadastral records. Also, the LMAP data focus solely on land ownership and, as a result, do not provide a good sense of land rental markets. Moreover, many people with titled land who are engaged in land transactions tend to avoid the official registry for various reasons. As a result, such a database may not be easily or consistently updated. Those who do use the official registry to facilitate land transactions may at the same time understate the sale price of the land, thus distorting perception of the actual market values in a given area.

This database may also not be easily accessible to researchers and/or policy-makers. One consideration concerns confidentiality, and some of the data may be considered politically sensitive. For example, certain individuals may not wish to have records concerning their landholdings available to the public. These and other problems associated with transparency will require some time to sort out.

Agricultural census

As noted above, the Statistics Law of 2005 mandates the National Institute of Statistics (NIS) to carry out an agricultural census once every ten years. An agricultural census would represent a single, one-stop venue for land tenure data that could be linked with other data sets, such as population census data, land use data and geographic information System maps. Such a data set could include a wide range of factors, including comprehensive land tenure and land use information, as well as other productive assets, and certain demographic information concerning available household labour. Moreover, a comprehensive agricultural census would be national in scope and would provide data consistency across administrative boundaries, thus promoting comparability.

There are, however, several concerns regarding an agricultural census, one of which is timing. The Statistical Master Plan (SMP) observes that it is best to carry out the agricultural census as long after the population census as possible. In this sense, the population census could help prepare for the agricultural census, perhaps by identifying those households that are engaged in agriculture. Given that the population census is now scheduled for 2008, the SMP suggests that an agricultural census could take place in the second half of 2009.

Another concern is cost. The current estimate for such a census is approximately US$3.3 million, but it would not be surprising if this were to increase during the next several years. While the donor community appears to give its full support to the population census, it is not yet clear to what degree an agricultural census would enjoy donor support. The SMP suggests that it might be necessary to do this as a “partial census” in which ail “large establishments” are covered, but only employing a s ample of “smaller establishments”. This in turn raises concerns about the type of information that would be gathered; presumably, information would be collected on a wide range of factors pertaining to land tenure arrangements and land use at the household level. Therefore, the development of the survey instrument should involve a wide range of stakeholders, including policy-makers, government officials and donors.

A third concern with regard to an agricultural census is the reliability of data. While most people may be inclined to provide accurate information, there may be a tendency to underestimate land holdings and productive assets, as well as other factors. The impact of such problems can be minimized with good training, rigorous pre-testing and comparisons with other data surveys that are considered reliable. In this sense, there will need to be close collaboration between NIS and MAFF in terms of capacity building in survey and sampling techniques.


Information about land tenure, land use and production is central to the design, implementation and monitoring of public polices governing agricultural and rural development in developing countries. In Cambodia, the state's capacity to collect, maintain and effectively use such information has been severely diminished by years of war and civil conflict. Cambodia faces several significant constraints in terms of the supply of data, among them human resource capacity and financial resources. On the demand side, Cambodia lacks a tradition of evidence-based policy-making. Such constraints undermine the government's ability to provide secure land tenure for farming households, as well as to manage state land resources effectively. Although important progress is currently being made towards building a professional national statistics and data collection service, there are significant information gaps in areas concerning land tenure and land use data.

Probably the most feasible institutional venue for land tenure and land use data at this point is the agricultural census. Although Cambodia has never undertaken an agricultural census in its history, the Statistics Law of 2005 now mandates that NIS conduct such a census once every ten years. A draft version of the Statistical Master Plan for Cambodia suggests that an agricultural census should take place in the second half of 2009, following the population census of 2008. Such a census can and should include comprehensive sections on land tenure and land use data that can be linked to other demographic and production data. This option, however, would require additional training for NIS and MAFF enumerators. Given the lack of government resources, donors should support this effort. If costs are a concern, a partial census using a representative sample may be the most feasible alternative.

A comprehensive and reliable land tenure database System, however, is not entirely feasible in the absence of effective arrangements for managing state land, which includes land allocated for economic and social land concessions. Three initial steps are required: identification and mapping of state land, registration and classification of state land and creation and maintenance of the state land maps and database. As part of the identification and mapping exercise, existing occupancy and land use must be identified. This means that spatially linked databases must include reference to household and community data, as well as land use and type of claim; these features must be identified before any rational System of adjudication and conflict resolution can be undertaken. Another aspect of the exercise is to determine and classify state public land according to suitability of use. This would entail a type of land use suitability mapping, including databases associated with soil type classifications and water resources availability.


Ballard, B. & So S. 2006 (forthcoming). Cambodia land titling program: Baseline survey project, rural phase 1. Phnom Penh, Cambodia Development Resource Institute.

Biddulph, R. 2004. Poverty and social impact assessment of social land concessions in Cambodia: landlessness assessment. Phnom Penh, Oxfam.

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (COHCHR), Cambodia. 2004. Land concessions for economic purposes in Cambodia: a human rights perspective. Report by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Human Rights in Cambodia. Phnom Penh.

Chan S. & Sarthi A. 2001. An assessment of land tenure in rural Cambodia. Cambodia Devel. Review, October-December 2001. Phnom Penh, Cambodia Development Resource Institute.

Council of Land Policy (CLP). 2002. Strategy of land policy framework. Interim paper. Phnom Penh, Government of Cambodia.

Eng, N. & Rusten, C. 2004. Fiscal decentralisation: an exploratory study on existing taxation and options for commune/sangkat own-source revenues. Cambodia Development Resource Institute draft working paper, November 2004.

Hayami, Y. 2005. Toward an efficient agrarian System under globalization. Paper presented at the National Forum on Agrarian Structure in the Context of Trade Integration, 28–29 June 2005, Phnom Penh.

Ministry of Environment (MoT). 2005. State of Environment Report 2004. Phnom Penh.

Statistics Law. 2005. Unofficial translation, 21 March 2005.

Wallace, J. & Williamson, I. 2004. Analysis of statistical rural land tenure databases for Asia and the Pacific: final report. FAO, University of Melbourne, Australia.

1 This discussion is drawn from Hayami, 2005.

2 Much of this section also appears in a report on the rural phase of the land-tilting baseline survey project (Ballard and So, forthcoming).

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