Human Response to Environmental Change in Cambodia


Manohar S, Downs S, Shaikh S, Mak S, Sok S, Graham E, Miachon L, Fanzo J. "Riverine food environments and food security: a case study of the Mekong River, Cambodia." Bulletin of the World Health Organization. 101(2), 2023.

Rivers are critical, but often overlooked, parts of food systems. They have multiple functions that support the food security, nutrition, health and livelihoods of the communities surrounding them. However, given current unsustainable food system practices, damming and climate change, the majority of the world’s largest rivers are increasingly susceptible to environmental degradation, with negative implications for the communities that rely on them. Here we describe the dynamism and multifaceted nature of rivers as food environments (i.e. the place within food systems where people obtain their food) and their role in securing food security including improved diets and overall health. We also provide a conceptual framework that explain rivers as food environments within the broader food system and describe approaches to characterizing these food environments to better inform our understanding of how they influence food security and nutrition outcomes. Applying this framework to the Mekong River in Cambodia, we describe rivers as multifaceted wild food environments embedded within ecosystems, sociocultural and political environments and sectors of influence. We also explain the ways in which individual factors might influence how communities interact with this food environment. Developing and articulating food-related, ecosystem-specific frameworks and their constructs can guide implementation of policies aimed to improve specific public health or environmental sustainability outcomes. Our conceptual framework incorporates the multiple dimensions of rivers, which will aid future work and public health policy framing to better describe, understand and intervene to ensure protection of rivers’ biodiversity and ecosystems as well as food security, health and livelihoods.

Felkner, J., H. Lee, S. Shaikh, A. Kolata, and M. Binford, “Rural livelihood strategies conditioned by financial credit access, market remoteness and forest proximity in 4 provinces in rural Cambodia.” World Development, 155 (July), 2022.

Livelihood diversification strategies 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, for market access, credit provision, and forest conservation. Using a survey of 2,417 households in 64 villages in four Provinces in Cambodia and satellite data on forest extent, we test hypotheses and quantify the relative contributions and first-order interactions effects of market and road access, forest access, and formal and informal financial credit access on household expenditures and livelihood incomes. We test hypotheses about their statistical interactions, their relative contributions to incomes, and how their effects differ within and outside the Mekong River floodplain. Our findings show that market, road, credit and forest effects are interconnected and interdependent, but support each other, and significant interaction effects between forest and market access suggest that policies for poverty reduction and forest conservation should be coordinated with the development of roads to improve potential forest returns.

Shaikh, S., A. Kolata and J. Johnson, “Home and Away: Drivers and Perceptions of Migration Among Urban Migrants and their Rural Families in the Lower Mekong River Basin of Cambodia.” Migration and Development, 12(1), October 2023.

As the world becomes increasingly urbanized, cities across Asia continue to emerge and expand. Cambodian cities reflect this trend with rapid growth due principally to significant and continuing in-country migration. However, following the forced evacuation of cities during the Khmer Rouge regime in 1975, and subsequent rapid repopulation in the 1980’s, Cambodia’s urbanization is more recent than other Asian countries and, as a result, less investigated. This study examines rural-to-urban migration in five southern provinces around Phnom Penh—the capital and largest city in Cambodia—from the perspective of urban migrants and their rural family members. We examine how economic, environmental, and socio-cultural factors influence migrants’ current and desired movements, rural livelihoods, and the permanency of urban migration. While finding evidence to support three major theories of migration—income-differentials, environmental change, and social networks—we argue that none of these alone are sufficient to understand current migration patterns or urban migrants’ desire to return to their home village. We argue that explanations of Cambodian migration must account for the powerful, socio-cultural attraction of one’s home village and kinship, as well as the inseparability of two factors specific to provinces around Phnom Penh: the proliferation of access to microfinance and the rise of the garment industry. When these dimensions are considered, distinct patterns of migration become legible with significant implications for the viability of microfinance-backed adaptation strategies and rural livelihoods.

A Scientific Research Agenda for Water Sustainability in the Mekong, SSRN

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.