As a follow up to an earlier blog post addressing an article in the Phnom Penh Post claiming that the Kingdom’s arable land is “all but gone”, I thought I’d delve into this issue a little further and look beyond some of the obviously inaccurate numbers quoted in the article.
Based on data obtained from Open Development Cambodia and other sources, I’ve put together this map, which gives a more comprehensive picture of land use and land use potential.
One of the more interesting data layers I’ve used here is a watershed classification layer which “describes the potential degradation risk when cleared of the original vegetation cover”. The full metadata for this data can be found on the Mekong River Commission data portal.
This data is not an endorsement or recommendation for a particular kind of development, but when when we combine this information with information on protected status, concession land, land already under arable/agricultural use and forested areas, we start to see areas that could be developed for agriculture.
The table above indicates the incremental reduction in land available for agricultural development for a particular reason. The conclusion from this analysis is that there is about 20.4% land left for development. These areas are highlighted in pink on the map.
The main limitation of the analysis is that (a) the data is somewhat incomplete, especially for agricultural concessions, and (b) some layers are somewhat dated. For example, the only available land use map of Cambodia was published in 2002. I would also note that this map does not include mineral exploration concessions, which are very low impact and often overlap with agricultural concessions.
The final point is that nobody really knows, because up to date land use maps do not exist for Cambodia and that some information is not publicly available. But, as the saying goes, there are always two sides to a story and somewhere in the middle lies the truth!