SEATTLE — Cambodia reduced its poverty rate from 53 percent in 2004 to 15.6 percent in 2016. Although progress in poverty reduction has been tremendous, poverty is still an issue in rural areas of Cambodia. The government of Cambodia, Asian Development Bank and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) have teamed up and reduced poverty through focusing their efforts on rural poverty. Rural poverty in Cambodia is widespread, yet the IFAD and other partners seek to eradicate poverty and help Cambodia reach upper-middle-income status by 2030.
The Government’s Goals
The Cambodian government created Cambodia’s Vision 2030 and the Cambodia Industrial Development Policy to reduce the urban-rural gap. Its goals include investing in trade infrastructure and improving trade facilitation, ensuring competitiveness in the open markets, improving the investment climate and developing and increasing value-added agriculture and agro-industry. The Cambodian government has been working with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank to reduce poverty and grow its economy. The growth rate has remained around seven percent since 2011, mostly due to growing industries such as textile, tourism and construction.
The Government of Cambodia and the IFAD’s Objectives
As of July 2019, nine projects have initiated in Cambodia, with a cost of $588 million. The IFAD financed a total of $151 million that benefited more than 1.3 million households. The IFAD supports the government’s poverty reduction efforts and focuses on three objectives: increase resilience to natural disasters and other shocks that affect poor households and communities, improve poor households’ access to rural services and assist poor Cambodians in taking advantage of market opportunities. The country transitioned from a livelihoods-based strategy to a market-oriented approach. About 79 percent of the poor are employed in the agricultural sector and 70 percent of the total Cambodian population works in that same sector. This is why the government and the IFAD are focused on poverty in rural Cambodia.
IFAD’s Three Main Projects
There are three main projects the IFAD focuses on to reduce poverty in Cambodia. The Tonle Sap Poverty Reduction and Smallholder Development Project (TSSD), Agriculture Services Programme for Innovation, Resilience and Extension (ASPIRE) and the Accelerating Inclusive Markets for Smallholders (AIMS). All three involve investing in rural people, enabling them access to health services, improving food security, improving nutrition and strengthening resilience to natural disasters and other unexpected impacts to livelihoods.
The TSSD is the IFAD’s main project that focuses on 271 communes in the Tonle Sap Basin. The project began in 2010 and ends in 2023. It affects over 650,000 households and costs $121 million. The goals are to improve rural infrastructure, such as the lack of paved roads in the countryside, increase household income and strengthen smallholders’ ability to withstand economic instability. The Asian Development Bank and the Finnish International Development financed more than $80 million of the $121 million total cost of the TSSD project.
Asian Development Bank’s Progress
Another fruitful partnership is the Asian Development Bank (ADB) uniting with the Cambodian government. Between 2010 and 2014, the Asian Development Bank and Cambodia partnered to provide about 50,000 households with new or improved sanitation. They also built or upgraded more than 200 miles of new or upgraded power transmission lines. This partnership constructed or improved more than 350 miles of roads, and provided more than 205,000 secondary school students access to educational facilities. The Asian Development Bank also supports the government’s goal of improving skills training. ADB is Cambodia’s largest multilateral development partner and has helped reduce poverty in Cambodia through direct action and project financing.
The Future of Cambodia
Cambodia made remarkable progress reducing its poverty rate from 53 percent in 2004 to 16 percent in 2016. Although poverty in Cambodia is high in rural regions, the Asian Development Bank, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the government of Cambodia continue to make progress in improving the livelihoods of poor Cambodians. As the economy continues to grow and further development increases, it is projected that Cambodia will continue to become a high-income country by 2050.
– Lucas Schmidt