‘We are not afraid to die’: gender dynamics of agrarian change in Ratanakiri province, Cambodia

Title‘We are not afraid to die’: gender dynamics of agrarian change in Ratanakiri province, Cambodia
Annotated RecordAnnotated
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsMi_Young_Park C, Maffii M
Secondary TitleThe Journal of Peasant Studies
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Key themesFDI, Gender, MarginalisedPeople, MigrationLabour

Dramatic changes have subverted the socially, culturally and resource-rich systems of indigenous communities living in Ratanakiri province. These changes include the incursion of market-based economy and commodification of land, the alienation of land and natural resources by way of economic land concessions (ELCs) and the inflow of large number of migrants from other regions and countries. Their cumulative impact has affected indigenous communities’ agrarian practices, their livelihoods and their system of beliefs and way of life, with important repercussions on social differentiation and gender relations. Based on fieldwork carried out in Ratanakiri province, this contribution analyses how emerging capitalist relations are shaping shifting gender relations and creating hierarchies of power that risk marginalising indigenous women and girls and eroding spaces of recognition, autonomy and agency they once had.


Copyrighted journal article



Document Type

Journal Article


Overall relevance: 

This article gives an analysis of how emerging capitalist relations are shaping shifting gender relations and creating hierarchies of power in Ratanakiri Province, Cambodia. It contributes to the understanding of the gender dimensions of capitalist expansion and land grabs in indigenous communities in Cambodia from a feminist agrarian political economy perspective. This article argues that the penetration of capital in the selected indigenous communities not only disadvantages women and girls, but also erodes their space of recognition, autonomy and agency. It indicates that women are losing not only their material and symbolic places of recognition but also their identity as farmers and agriculturalists.

Key Themes: 
  • FDI and land access: economic land concessions, contract farming, short term and long term renting - The market economy, the improvement in infrastructure and the recent mushrooming of economic land concessions have made this province more accessible to agricultural investments, especially for rubber. Forced by increasing land scarcity and destruction of natural resources, many communities have changed from swidden agriculture to permanent commercial crops partially or entirely.
  • Agrarian change and land: Migration and labour - Swidden agriculture has decreased and the landscape has changed with commercial crops and monoculture plantations run by large agribusinesses, replacing vast tracts of forest. The expansion of ELCs has also put the indigenous agrarian system under stress in many different ways, much beyond the loss of farmland. It has also increased women’s workload and changed gender roles, division of labour, and women’s status. Differential access to cash crops, labour and communal titling has also ignited processes of social differentiation between individuals, households and communities.
  • Gender and land - The opening up of land frontiers and the initial introduction of new agricultural practices and cash crops have had different outcomes at different points in time for different women and men, which has created extra work for women while lightening men’s traditional tasks of forest-clearing and hunting
Research basis: 

This article is based on both primary qualitative data collection by fieldwork and available literature and documents. The fieldwork was conducted in Andong Meas, Oyadaw, O’Chum, Borkeo and Veunsay districts in Ratanakiri between 2006 and 2016 in the context of different projects involving research consultations and activities with indigenous women. The field methods included in-depth, non-structured dialogues and group discussions with women and men from the selected communities as well as interviews with other key stakeholders, including local authorities and representatives of NGOs. (Provided by Hua Xiaobo)