Social changes and dynamics in use of cardamom in cambodia: Environmental local history on harvest leader, Marketing system and conservation activity in the cardamom mountains

Ishibashi Hiroyuki*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cardamom (Amomum kravank) has been used as a medicinal plant, a food and as a source of revenue in the Cardamom Mountain region in south west Cambodia, from at least the late 19th century. Harvesting of this plant entailed a ceremony to open the season, conducted by a harvest leader (dangkhaui), who took responsibility in leading the harvest group in harvest activities. Production of this plant was also controlled by the then French colonial government in order to secure state revenue by reforming the taxation system and organizing a marketing cooperative system managed by local administration which used a similar system in 1950s and 1960s. However, the use of cardamom was interrupted in 1970s and 1980s due to civil war that broke out under the Pol Pot regime. Although its use and management restarted after the establishment of a new government in 1990s alongside the creation of protected forest in 2002 through conservation activities, the author has observed that its use has changed and diversified between both the northern and southern part of the central mountains. That is in the north, ceremony, harvest and selling is still practiced, whereas in the south, people don't practice ceremony and are inclined to refrain from harvest and selling. This paper will explore how the use of cardamom differed and changed due to historical transitions and social and environmental conditions between the two research sites correlating it with the harvesting leader, marketing system and conservation activities. It then discusses factors effecting its continuous use. The following two points were the core internal factors that supported the continuous use of cardamom in the northern part of the mountains. (1) A fundamental system for practicing harvest custom formed by interaction between characteristics of ddngkhaw (a. Commitment to on the ground activity, b. A hereditary role in transferring knowledge and experiences among kin, c. The adjustment of the harvesting period to collect well ripened fruits with a good market price) and the environmental setting of the area where cardamom was abundant. (2) The dangkhaw and his family who managed this system reconstructed and maintained harvest customs even under conditions of rapid social change and historical transitions. In addition to this, (3) External intervention through the introduction of a marketing system and conservation activities that linked with the internal harvesting system, formed a system connecting both the inside and outside world of the community through maintaining conditions for selling the harvest.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155-204
Number of pages50
JournalSoutheast Asian Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Cardamom
  • Con-servation activity
  • Continuation
  • Environmental local history
  • Harvest leader
  • Marketing system
  • The Cardamom Mountains

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Political Science and International Relations


Dive into the research topics of 'Social changes and dynamics in use of cardamom in cambodia: Environmental local history on harvest leader, Marketing system and conservation activity in the cardamom mountains'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this