A World Bank poverty assessment due for release this week claims that in Cambodia land titles play an enormous role in increasing agricultural productivity.
“Secure land tenure…increases rental value 38 percent, crop yields 65 percent, and household consumption by 24 percent,” World Bank rural sector coordinator Steven Schonberger wrote in an e-mail on Friday. Those with secure land titles are more willing to invest in high-risk and high-payoff activities such as planting orchards, vegetables or cash crops such as rubber, Schonberger wrote.
“The acquisition of land through illegal means simply extends a situation of uncertain security of tenure which undermines investment in better soil production and long-term crop development,” he wrote.
The new analysis is based on a statistical interpretation of the Ministry of Planning’s 2004 socioeconomic survey released in November, in which 15,000 people were surveyed.
Agriculture Minister Chan Sarun said Monday that he did not believe the positive effect of land titles was as great as the World Bank analysis indicates.
“People have owned land since 1979, they already feel secure with land property…. I don’t believe land titles are helping to increase yields,” he said.
“Yield production increases because of new seeds and new techniques of water available both from government irrigation and more rainwater.”
Chan Sarun said he would like to encourage farmers not to wait for titles to invest in new seeds and irrigation.
Economist Kang Chandararot, director of the Cambodian Institute of Development Study, said it would be fair to say land titles increase yields, but added that he has found some exceptions.
“On the macro level we can agree but we are not so sure about that percentage,” he said.
Kong Chandararot said his institute conducted a survey in late January of 460 farmers in 12 provinces, and found that many owning fields close to new roads or irrigation development are under intense pressure to sell their valuable land and do not invest in increasing production.
This reduced production of vegetables, rice and other foodstuffs has contributed to the rising inflation seen in Cambodia in 2005, because it has increased a reliance on expensive imports, he said.