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Migration and Forest Extraction in Cambodia

Written by Jasmin Knobloch

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Bachelor Thesis






Bachelor Thesis: A livelihood strategy is a combination of activities and assets that produce a means of family survival” (Martin and Lorenzen, 2016, p. 231). Due to continued population growth and environmental changes during climate change, the agricultural sector is facing an oversupply of food on the one hand, and weather-related risks and mechanization pressure on the other (Bühler et al., 2015); Jiao et al., 2015, Nith And Ly, 2018). Therefore, rural households are constantly looking for ways to cope with changing conditions and adopt a strategy that combines agriculture and non-agriculture (Martin and Lo-renzen, 2016), in which migration and deforestation play an important role. In the following, two strategies are introduced and previous contributions to the literature are shown. 2.1 Migration Migration is a socio-economic phenomenon that has received increasing attention (OECD, 2017). Lata et al. (2016) pointed out that in 2015, 250 million people did not live in their country of origin, accounting for 3.4% of the world's population. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO, 2019), the term "migrant" includes all circumstances that an individual freely decides without being affected by other factors. Therefore, children, refugees, asylum seekers and second-generation immigrants are excluded from the definition. Many factors influence the reasons for people to migrate. Family characteristics, labor market conditions, employment composition, and environmental facilities may stimulate potential motivation to move (Fouarge et al., 2016). In the past, agriculture was the dominant core strategy of many rural households (Bylander, 2014; Bylander, 2015). However, as climate change has become more common, making investments more expensive, and people more risk-averse, immigration is equally important for the rich and the poor (Parsons, 2016; Bylander, 2017). The literature results also show that there is a certain connection between agriculture and immigration in a specific field. The work of Kong et al. al (2019) described that 72% of the respondents in the 2008 data were engaged in agriculture, and at the same time viewed better job opportunities as their main motivation. From this, the researchers concluded that land is an important incentive for immigration. According to the data of UNESCO (2018), the most common reason for domestic immigration is family, accounting for 42.2%, followed by intention to get married (21.8%), job hunting (18.4%) and education (1.4%). According to the Ministry of Planning (2012), women tend to move for the first two reasons. 2.2 Forest harvesting Currently, the forest area in Cambodia is 8,742,401 hectares, accounting for about 48.14% of the Cambodian territory (Ministry of Environment, 2018). As the Khmer Rouge seized power in the mid-1970s and the civil war began, the area of ​​forest land began to decrease (Moore et al., 2018). Between 2001 and 2014, Cambodia lost approximately 1.59 million hectares of forest (Erickson-Davis, 2017). The Greater Mekong region was once one of the most densely forested areas in the world, and since then a third of the forest land has been lost in the 1970s (Hirschberger and Winter, 2018). It covers Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand. Border areas are also particularly affected by deforestation and the aforementioned countries (Moore et al., 2018). FAO (2011) reported that only 13% of the original forest remains intact. According to Hirschberger and Winter (2018), if no further measures are taken to protect forests, another third will disappear by 2030. The rapid growth of the economy and permanent population, as well as the prosperity of the agricultural sector, have led to recent land use changes (Kong et al., 2019). One of the biggest environmental problems is deforestation, especially illegal logging in the Mekong region (Hirschberger and Winter, 2018). Legal and political restrictions in Vietnam, China, and Thailand, as well as improved control over logging, coupled with increasing demand, have promoted unsustainable and illegal deforestation of forest resources for export in neighbouring countries such as Cambodia (PROFOR) , 2011). In addition to pure deforestation, the collection and use of non-timber forest products (NTFP), such as fuelwood, bamboo poles, price leaves, and resin, are also part of forest harvesting as a livelihood strategy (Chou, 2019). However, this explains the difficult task of coordinating economic development with forest protection and ecosystem service protection (Hirschberger and Winter, 2018). Goldman Sachs Environmental Award winner Ouch Leng emphasized the importance of the current issue with the following words: “If you can’t tell the truth about deforestation, you cannot protect the forest. There is no need to plant trees, because if we don’t cut them down, they will grow. "(Chheng, 2019). Given that the majority of Cambodia’s population lives in rural areas, people prefer traditional lifestyles, and people are highly dependent on the natural resources of forests (Jiao et al., 2015), making forest logging one of the most important livelihood strategies in these areas. This fact is also demonstrated by a study in the Stung Treng area, which shows that of 582 households, approximately 44% (most so far) are natural resource extractors. Read Less