[en] Agricultural economics and policies ; decision rules ; farming systems and practices ; geographic information system and remote sensing ; land tenure ; rural development ; sustainable natural resources management ; rural livelihoods ; Cambodia ; rural sociology
[en] The paper aims to identify the rationality of peasant communities and their contribution to rural development in Kampong Thom province. To do so, an interdisciplinary analytical framework addresses the dynamics of land use and land tenure, the strategies of labor force allocation as well as the determinants of land and labor agricultural productivities amongst peasant communities. It rests on details field surveys in two communes located in very distinct agro-ecological settings of Kampong Thom province. A land use change analysis based on time-series aerial photos is conducted with participatory inventories of natural resources. It shows that endogenous management of forest and fisheries resources generate significant incomes and, at the same time, contribute to maintaining biodiversity. The paper analyses how this contribution is challenged by the non-peasant actors involved in massive State land privatization. Aiming to full employment, peasant households enjoy a great flexibility in the way they allocate labor force, especially in line with the age of active labor and the fluctuation of labor opportunity costs. Principally due to an unequal land holding distribution, agricultural income is unfairly distributed but this inequality is actually balanced by the access to common-pool resources of crucial importance for the poorest and by the recourse to non farming activities, which is an important factor of socio-economic differentiation amongst households. The main economic indicators of rice production confirm that peasant households always try to maximize their income in step with the production factor they have in relatively less amount. A land market simulation stresses that, contrarily to theoretical assumptions, land access through sale (and purchase) does not result in a fairer land distribution. Nevertheless, land leases amongst peasant households seem more promising to ensure equitable access to land as they are embedded in collective security mechanisms activated by peasantry. The paper argues that peasant communities in the studied area constitute a solid basis for rural development as they offer a very good articulation between economic efficiency, social justice and environmental sustainability. Finally, recommendations are formulated to properly address peasant contribution to rural development in the new national agrarian policies.