This article explores land-use transformation in a highland community in the Cardamom Mountains in western Cambodia, focusing not only on agricultural land used for subsistence but also on land used for producing a non-timber forest product, cardamom, as a commercial product. Taking account of the historical context in a cardamom production site, the article examines how people who lived in the highlands from the prewar period and migrants from the lowlands during the postwar period acquired agricultural land. Forestland in the early 1990s was “forbidden forest”; since the prewar period there was a taboo against clearing forests that were used for cardamom production. Both highland people and migrants from the lowlands were aware of the taboo, and some of them avoided clearing the cardamom forest, where the land was most fertile. However, from the late 1990s onward cardamom forest was cleared. Internal factors to this were land rights, including rights to fallow, claimed within the community by early and late returnees and newcomers. External factors such as the construction of logging roads and a hydroelectric dam, the expansion of agricultural cash crops, and the privatization of land by outsiders became additional drivers that pushed people to clear the cardamom forest. The trajectory of land-use transformation shows that forests were initially used for producing cardamom as a commercial product in the prewar period, later served a subsistence purpose for rice production, and then served a commercial purpose for cash crop production in the postwar period. The changes indicate that the land-use purpose did not simply change from subsistence to commercial in the highland community in the Cardamom Mountains, unlike in other highland communities in Cambodia.
- Cardamom production site
- Forbidden forest
- Highland community
- Land rights
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geography, Planning and Development
- Political Science and International Relations