Although the economy has shown strong economic growth over the last decade, the country remains one of the poorest in Asia and its violent history continues to be noticed in contemporary Cambodia. Access to and control over natural resources and the development of the agricultural sector are seen as major challenges in the long-term economic development of Cambodia.

Regional Office South East Asia

  • Jl. Tukad Batang Hari IX no.8
    Panjer - Denpasar 80225

  • +62 361 895 58 01
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  • 51% of population is younger than 24
  • 79,3% of population lives in rural areas
  • 49% of population is involved i agricultural activities

General Information

Cambodia, officially the Kingdom of Cambodia, borders Laos in the north, Thailand in the northwest and west, and Vietnam in the east and southeast with low mountain ranges. Within these ranges lies the fertile lowland heart of Cambodia. The 15.7 million Cambodian inhabitants are mainly Khmer (90%), but also Vietnamese (5%), Chinese (1%) and other ethnicities (4%). The majority of the population is Buddhist (97%), which is also the state religion.

Demographic figures in Cambodia are influenced strongly by the Cambodian civil war and the genocide. Around 51% of the population is younger than 24 years old. The Cambodian civil war took place shortly after the Vietnam war (1975) and continued until the 1990s. Estimates on how many people have died in these years are various, but thought to be between 1.5 million and 2.5 million due to executions, hunger and illness.

The civil war also continues to be noticed in contemporary Cambodian economy. Although the economy has shown strong economic growth over the last decade (since 2011, GDP grew at an annual rate of 7%), Cambodia remains one of the poorest countries in Asia. Approximately 2.66 million people live of less than $1.20 per day. Small scale farmers, ethnic minorities and children are the most vulnerable in this context.

The majority (79.3%) of the Cambodian population lives in the rural areas. Cambodia is an agrarian country whose economy is largely depending on natural resources and agriculture. Around 49% of Cambodians is involved in agricultural activities. An activity that accounts for 32.1% of land use in Cambodia. The main crops are rice, rubber, corn, vegetables, cashew and cassava. Especially the lowland, and most densely populated part, of Cambodia is fertile because of the presence of the Mekong river and South East Asia’s largest freshwater lake Tonle Sap, which makes rice a perfect crop for the area. But the (long-term) economic development of Cambodia and its agricultural sector remain a big challenge, held back by poverty rates, poor infrastructure, demographic imbalance, limited education and productive skills, and limited access to markets.

Other challenges Cambodia faces are environmental sustainability, land and natural resources management and good governance. Over the last two decades, economic liberalization, export expansion and growing foreign investment have led to rising prices and an insatiable demand for land, forest and maritime areas. Leading to frequent clashes between the interests of local ethnic communities and companies. With large swathes of the country leased for commercial exploitation (large scale agribusiness ventures or real estate development) through economic land concessions, insecurity of tenure due to a widespread lack of formal land titles and weak rule of law have facilitated a wave of land grabs and forced evictions, sometimes accompanied by violence.

Themes in Cambodia

The programs of ICCO Cooperation in South East Asia connect and strengthen the interface between our two core principles: Securing Sustainable Livelihoods and Justice & Dignity for All. Together with our partners, ICCO Cooperation’s key intervention strategies in South East Asia focus on Responsible Business, Inclusive Markets, Sustainable Food Production and Food Security. All with the aim to make sure that poor and marginalized men and women can lead secure, sustainable, just and dignified lives.

In Cambodia, the work of ICCO Cooperation focuses on all three strategies. We work towards responsible business and defend rights of small scale producers, communities and indigenous people in securing access to and control over land and natural resources. Especially in agriculture, forestry and fishery. Moreover, ICCO Cooperation focuses on rural entrepreneurship and inclusive markets. Food security is a cross-cutting theme in our Cambodian program.

Expertise in Cambodia

ICCO has been funding projects in Cambodia since 1974. Our support was interrupted during the Khmer Rouge until 1993. In that year we resumed our program in a country that suffered from a post-war situation. ICCO focused its program on rehabilitation of the society. In 2000 we made a shift towards conflict transformation and democratization.

In our current work, our aim is to empower ethnic minorities and marginalized rural people to (maintain) access to and control over natural resources, and to connect them and small and medium businesses (SMEs) to inclusive value chains. Together with the private sector, governmental and financial institutions, and other partners we make existing value chains more sustainable and inclusive.

In Cambodia, ICCO Cooperation South East Asia makes use of the following interlinked approaches and models:

Markets for the Poor (M4P)

The M4P approach aims to transform market structures by increasing the participation of the poor, and to make the market more beneficial and sustainable for them.

Value Chain Development (VCD)

We focus on empowering small producers and marginalized groups by connecting them to viable and sustainable value chains and its actors, to generate income and improve food security.

Public-Private Partnerships (PPP)

Our emphasis has always been on partnerships and cooperation. The PPP-model connects the resources and expertise of various sectors (governments, companies, knowledge institutes, ngo’s) when implementing entrepreneurial programs to eradicate poverty.

Business Incubation & Impact Investment

Through our investments programs, ICCO contributes to fair economic development in emerging economies. ICCO provides conditional capital (such as loans, equity and guarantees), by ‘blending’ financial instruments. Our Business Incubator Program (AgriBusiness Booster) provides capacity and capital to small and medium enterprises and farmer cooperatives, for them to grow and develop into strong and independent enterprises.

Business & Human Rights (BHR)

We work with local communities, private sector actors and governments to achieve a world where the private sector operationalizes its role as an important partner for development. We see the United Nations Guiding Principles as an important guideline and framework for private sector sustainability.

Our projects in Cambodia

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