From rice fields to financial assets: Valuing land for microfinance in Cambodia

TitleFrom rice fields to financial assets: Valuing land for microfinance in Cambodia
Annotated RecordNot Annotated
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsW. Green N
Secondary TitleTransactions of the Institute of British Geographers
Key themesFDI, Formalisation-titling, MigrationLabour

This paper explores how rural land in Cambodia has been incorporated into global networks of finance capital through the technical and political processes of turning land into a financial asset. Since the 1990s, the Cambodian government and international development institutions have issued land titles to people to formalise land ownership and increase people's access to formal credit. At the same time, Cambodia's commercial microfinance industry has rapidly grown to become one of the largest markets in the world per capita. The industry has expanded in part because microfinance institutions use land title for collateral on household loans as a method to manage the financial risk of their foreign investors and shareholders. In this paper, I draw on ethnographic research conducted with ACLEDA Bank, Cambodia's largest provider of microfinance loans, to examine how the rural land market and microfinance sector are assembled together. I argue that microfinance markets in Cambodia depend on credit officers establishing a capitalist regime of land value. To do so, credit officers engage in daily bricolage, using technologies of representation and data inscription, to create new grids of land evaluation that allow people to treat their land as a financial asset. I also argue that collateral is a kind of technology of control that reworks and respatialises household social reproduction for the benefit of financial accumulation. This paper thus contributes to our theoretical understanding of how land, labour, and finance capital are assembled together, and the political economic ramifications of such an assemblage.


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Journal Article