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Polder Rehabilitation, Agricultural Growth, and Inequalities

Water management is one of the Cambodian government’s priorities to increase the country’s agricultural production and alleviate poverty. The Prey Nup polder rehabilitation project, which began in 1998 in the Sihanoukville region, falls within this framework. After eight years, the technical results are impressive: 10,500 hectares of rice fields rehabilitated, 2,700 hectares recultivated, rice yields increased from 1.6 to 2.7 t/ha. In addition, today, an elected Polder Users’ Community is able to manage and maintain the infrastructures. The massive increase in rice production is clear. But, in a Cambodian context marked by growing economic and land inequalities, one can wonder about the socioeconomic impacts of this increase: How were the profits distributed among the population? Did the rehabilitation significantly modify households’ economic situations? Did it increase or lessen economic inequalities? What were the trickle-down effects on access to land and social differentiation?