Environmental conflicts and poor peoples’ livelihoods – a case study from a REDD+ project in Northwest Cambodia

Start date: 1 March, 2012 End date: 14 April, 2012 Project type: Master's Thesis (prior to 2018) Project code: A17008 Countries: Cambodia Institutions: University of Copenhagen (UCPH), Denmark Grant recipient: Anne-Mette Sylvest Pedersen Total grant: 15,000 DKK



Environmental conflicts are on the increase as pressure on the natural resources intensifies with poor people in many cases end up paying the highest price. Food insecurity, denial of basic human rights, oppression, and the conspicuous wealth of the elite exploitation of the resources leaves frustration and anger to germinate and destabilizes already fragile societies with potential repercussions through the global society. Understanding how to achieve pro-poor conflict management and resolution strategies may be key to securing global peace.

This case study analyses conflict situations from the perspectives of the poor in selected villages in the northwest of Cambodia. There, Oddar Meanchey with the highest rate of deforestation in the country, is home to the country’s first REDD+ (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) a climate change mitigation project aiming to provide a financial incentive to the communities for avoiding deforestation and degradation. However, villagers find themselves in a squeeze between forest protection and land concessions grabbing their land as well as in-migration of landless people hoping to get their share of the land.

Conflicting views on forest use impede progress. Managing these conflicts is imperative for the REDD+ to deliver the social co-benefits. This case study found that the livelihoods of the poor people encountered had been seriously reduced due to the loss of agricultural land. One conflict appeared resolved, but the solution was far from pro-poor. Assymmetries of power makes it less appropriate to engage in a discourse-based approach with the parties. Rather leverage must be found amongst those with power elsewhere. Meantime a more local conflict is argued to threaten the sustainability of the CFs. Securing the livelihood of the poor is essential to minimizing the potential for conflict.