Human Response to Environmental Change in Cambodia

The Interrelated Impacts of Credit Access, Market Access and Forest Proximity on Livelihood Strategies in Cambodia

Livelihood diversification strategies for households in developing countries are influenced by access to financial credit, to markets and to forests. Understanding their interrelated impacts has important implications for development policy, including for market access, credit provision, and forest conservation. Using a two-round panel survey of 2,417 households in 64 villages in four Provinces in Cambodia and geospatial analysis, we analyze the influence of formal and informal financial credit, market and road access, and forest access on livelihood diversification strategies. Using econometric techniques to control for interrelated effects, we find credit utilization is significant with off-farm business and wage livelihood activities, land transactions, livestock activities, and remittances. Households below the poverty line use credit primarily for consumption and agricultural investments, but above the poverty line for business investment or for buying land, houses, or vehicles. Market access is significant with total income and expenditures, as well as portfolio shifts to off-farm business and wage activities. Forest access contributes significantly to both total income and expenditures in multivariable regressions controlling for credit and market access, and we find evidence that poverty alleviation is maximized when households have both high forest and market access. We do not find that, in aggregate, households near to forests are in a “poverty trap” due to market remoteness, but we do find that they are disadvantaged in pursuing agricultural livelihoods and households with both low forest and market access are poorest. Using the technique of dominance analysis, we find that financial credit contributes more than market or forest access to total income, expenditures, and livestock income. However, market access is more important than credit for off-farm, on-farm and crop incomes. Forest access contributes more to total income than road access when controlling for access to Phnom Penh and is more important than credit for crop livelihoods.

A Scientific Research Agenda for Water Sustainability in the Mekong

We present a review of the scientific research needs for water sustainability of the Mekong River. One of the world’s longest rivers, millions depend daily on the Mekong for their food security and livelihoods, but the river is experiencing dramatic modifications, including extensive hydropower development. The 12 research challenges and themes presented here were identified by a diverse and interdisciplinary working group of 24 scientists with expertise in a broad range of scientific disciplines relevant to both physical and social dimensions of Mekong water sustainability, during a workshop held in Cambodia sponsored by the US National Science Foundation (NSF). The themes comprise a comprehensive research agenda that advocates an interdisciplinary, social-ecological approach. We describe the state of knowledge, and in doing so highlight key research needs and relevant literature. With many competing water needs, integrating these research needs into policy and management will be critical for future Mekong water sustainability.