Cross-Boundary Conference on Responsible and Sustainable Chinese Agricultural Investment in Cambodia

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On 27th October 2015, Royal University of Phnom Penh, with the support of Oxfam, organized the conference “Towards Responsible and Sustainable Chinese Agricultural Investment in Cambodia: Opportunities, Challenges and Governance” at Royal University of Phnom Penh, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Welcome Remarks by H.E. Dr. Sok Vanny, Vice Rector of RUPP.

The conference aims to encourage constructive engagement and dialogue among policymakers, academics and civil society from both Cambodia and China on the increasing Chinese agricultural investment in Cambodia. In the face of increasing volume and impacts of agricultural foreign investment in the country, studies and dialogue platforms are still limited. Oxfam hopes to explore ways towards sustainable and responsible agricultural investment as a progressive force of poverty alleviation in Cambodia, by supporting evidence-based research and cross-boundary and multi-stakeholder dialogue.

More than 50 participants from the central governments, provincial governments, UN agencies, embassies, scholars, local NGOs and International NGOs attended the conference.

Dr. Serey Sok from Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP) and Prof. Luo Shengrong from the Great Mekong Sub-region Study Center (GMSSC) of Yunnan University presented the preliminary findings of the studies, which are supported by Oxfam, on the topic from Cambodian and Chinese perspectives respectively. The researches explore the trends, socio-economic and environmental impacts of Chinese investment in agriculture in Cambodia, as well as related investment policies and governance of both countries.

From left to right: Mr. Hak Yi, Deputy Director of Agro-industry of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Dr. Heng Nareth, Head of Community Development Department, RUPP Dr. Tek Vannara, Executive Director, NGO Forum and Prof. Luo Shengrong from the Great Mekong Sub-region Study Center (GMSSC) of Yunnan University

The presentations sparked discussion in the three following panels. Mr. Hak Yi, Deputy Director of Agro-industry of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, contextualized the discussion in the broader issue of Economic Land Concessions (ELCs) and encouraged more studies on contract farming as an alternative direction. Dr. Heng Nareth, Head of Community Development Department, RUPP and Dr. Tek Vannara, Executive Director, NGO Forum raised the issue of insufficient mechanism for dispute settlement. Officials from 3 provinces shared observations and insights as well as proposed suggestions for improvement based on their work. Representatives from local and international NGOs shared views from the perspectives of civil society and some global experience. Through the discussion, issues for further study and action were also identified.

Given the trend and importance of foreign agricultural investment not only in Cambodia but also in Southeast Asia, participants and Oxfam expected to carry on the dialogue platform and connect it with other initiatives in the region to promote sustainable and inclusive agribusiness.