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Gender and Land Rights Database

Cambodia

In 2005, the population was estimated at 13 956 000, of which 51.3 percent were women. Of the total population, 81 percent lived in rural areas (1). Women accounted for 52 percent of the total rural population in 2004 (2). Population density is 77 persons per square kilometre (1). The main ethnic group is the Khmer, which accounts for approximately 90 percent of the population (3).

In 2007, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was USD 8.6 billion, while the per capita GDP was USD 606, with an annual growth rate of 10.2 percent (4). Agriculture accounted for 29 percent of the GDP, while industry and services accounted for 27 percent and 39 percent respectively (4). Although agriculture’s share of the GDP has decreased from 55 percent in 1990, the sector is an important source of income for the rural population and employed 69 percent of the total workforce in 2004 (5). Most households depend on agriculture and its related sub-sectors of livestock rearing, fisheries and forest exploitation for their livelihood. Crops account for about 60 percent of the agricultural output with rice, grown on 90 percent of the cropped land, contributing for about 40 percent. Apart from rice, rural households, mainly small landholders with less than two ha of land, produce vegetables and tend palm trees for sugar and wine production (6).

With a Human Development Index (HDI) of 0.575 in 2006, the country ranks 136th out of 179 countries (7). In 2004, 35 percent of the population lived under the USD 1 per day poverty line (8). Although the country is self-sufficient in rice production on a national level, distribution of the national staple is uneven (4). In 2003, 33 percent of the population was undernourished (9). Life expectancy at birth in 2005 was estimated at 61.9 years for women and 57.3 years for men (1). In 2006, the HIV prevalence rate was 0.9 percent among the adult population. Of the total number of 67 200 people living with HIV, 52 percent were women (10). Data on literacy show a wide gender gap: the literacy rate was 64.1 percent for women and 84.7 percent for men in 2003 (11). 

In 2007, 48 percent of the female population was economically active. The share of women in the agricultural labour force was 52 percent in 2007 (12). The female participation rate in agriculture is even higher in rural areas, where it reaches 80 percent (6). Women comprise 56 percent of the primary workforce in subsistence agriculture and 54 percent of the workforce in market-oriented agriculture. However, the majority of these women are unpaid family workers (13). The traditional division of labour has changed due to the lack of male labour during the war years in 1970-1975. Many women had to take the responsibility of heading their households (14) and took over traditional male roles in farming, such as ploughing and irrigation, in addition to being responsible for marketing the agricultural produce in local markets (6).

After its abolition in 1975, the Government reintroduced private property rights in 1989 through Instruction No. 3 and Sub-decree No. 25. With the enactment of the 1992 Land Law, people could apply for occupancy and use rights (15). However, the process of privatization of common land resulted in a high degree of landlessness due to the lack of documentation of ownership rights and the absence of clearly defined procedures (8). In 2001, the new Land Law was passed to strengthen land tenure rights and improve the management of land administration (15). A Land Policy Framework was adopted in 2002. Based on the new procedures, several hundred thousands of land titles have been issued (16). The 2001 law also includes a measure to ensure that both women and men are identified as owners of the land (13).

In the country, 20-30 percent of landowners hold 70 percent of the land, while 40 percent of rural households occupy only 10 percent. Approximately 20 percent of rural households are landless, and 25 percent of rural households own land plots that are less than 0.5 ha. Furthermore, it is estimated that landlessness is increasing by about 2 percent annually (13). Access to rural land also continues to be impeded by the presence of landmines and unexploded ordinances, affecting about 2.5 percent of the territory (17).

Sources: numbers in brackets (*) refer to sources displayed in the Bibliography