FAO in Cambodia

National Workshop to strengthen capacities on gender equality for effective local governance of natural resources


Siem Reap - Close to sixty people from national and sub-national levels from key line ministries such as the Ministry of Environment (MoE), Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), Women Affairs, and Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, as well as NGOs gathered at an event from 4 to 6 March 2020 in Siem Reap province. The event allowed them to further familiarize themselves with the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (VGGT) (hereafter refer to as the Guidelines), the internationally recognized instrument on the issue of responsible tenure governance, with gender equality as a cross-cutting issue.

The workshop, which aimed to address capacity on gender equality and the responsible governance of tenure of land, fisheries and forests in the context of national food security for both women and men, was co-organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the General Directorate for Nature Conservation and Protection (GDANCP) of Ministry of Environment (MoE) with financial support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). 

At the welcome remarks, Mr Oum Kosal, FAO Assistant Representative (Programme) emphasized that, “the training workshop is to strengthen and broaden knowledge of key government officials and development partners in the context of managing effective local governance of natural resources such as access to and use of land, forest and fisheries by integrating gender aspects using the Voluntary Guidelines.”

The world’s natural resources are fast diminishing in both quantity and quality, causing a growing competition for access to and use of land, forests and fisheries. Governments are often challenged to respond to this growing pressure on national resources and to regulate interactions in this increasingly dynamic environment. This means responding to competing demands by different stakeholder groups, and responding to the needs, interests and concerns of both women and men. 

Cambodia is no exception

A large number of the Cambodian population relies on agriculture as their primary income and source of livelihood. The average area of agricultural holdings per household is 1.55 hectares. It is estimated that 21.8 percent of households are female-headed, and they are more likely to be landless and land-poor than male-headed households. Cambodian farmers are also vulnerable to the impacts of natural disasters and climate change due to the majority of agriculture systems being rainfed.

H.E. Srun Darith, Secretary of State, Ministry of Environment, noted that, “Cambodia has undergone rapid economic growth, requiring  much attention from all relevant partners and participatory management of use of land, forests and fisheries resources in national protected areas, which currently represent 41 percent of Cambodia’s total land area, to ensure a balance between economic growth and the environmental protection for Cambodia to achieve sustainable development goals.”

He further added that disputes over access to and use of land, fisheries and forest from the protected areas, as well as other rural areas in Cambodia, negatively affect social and economic development and the environment. 

Gender Equality and why it is important for Cambodia

Women’s equal access to and control over economic resources, including land and natural resources, is critical for the achievement of gender equality and empowerment of women and for equitable and sustainable economic growth and development,” explained Dr Louisa Jansen, Land Tenure Officer, based at FAO Headquarters in Rome.

The global evidence shows that women are accountable for half of the global food production, reflecting their crucial role in food security. Upgrading to responsible investments and restructuring the agricultural sector taking into account the significance of the gender role is the most effective way to increase yields and promote sustainable economic development.

According to FAO, if women had the same opportunities in terms of access to productive resources as men, the yields could be increased by 20 to 30 percent.

The topic of gender equality was one of the identified priorities of the capacity analysis workshop conducted in 2018. With this event, Cambodia gained sound knowledge and gender-equitable governance of tenure principals and good practices to establish socially just, environmentally sound, and economically efficient tenure governance.  This is also known as win-win procedures for a better protection of the rights and right holders of land and natural resources, because these are often the most vulnerable and marginalized people, who are depending directly on these resources for their livelihood.

H.E. Kim Nong, Deputy Director of the General Directorate of Administration for Nature Conservation and Protection of the Ministry of Environment, mentioned that “the workshop is very important for Cambodia. Though the VGGT is the global voluntary guideline, it is very practical and useful for our everyday works to deal with disputes over land and other natural resources.”

He further added, “Participants should share concept, lessons, and best practices they absorbed from this workshop with other colleagues in order to generate collaborative actions that can move Cambodia forward in a sustainable manner, and in alignment with national, regional and international policies and guidelines.”

All participants actively engaged in the discussions and found the presentations as well as the organization of the workshop informative and productive.

Ms Tuy Sokhheng, Deputy Director of the Agricultural Land Resource Management of the General Directorate of Agriculture (GDA), proudly shared that, “the Guidelines and gender equality is a new topic to me and I am grateful for the  opportunity to expose to this new concept and to understand practical procedures introduced in the Guidelines to ensure good governance of tenure.”

Mr Yu Socheat, Vice Chief of the Office for Mainland and Wetland Natural Resource Conservation, Battambang Provincial Department of Environment, also appreciated the workshop, in which he gained an understanding of the significant role of gender, particularly for women in different sectors. “The share of experiences involving women actions and participation in the sector of land management, fisheries and forests was the best part,” said Mr Yu Socheat. He added that he would further share what he learned with colleagues, while suggesting to have similar workshops in the future.