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Food insecurity in developing economies: Cambodian and international evidence




Chheng, Kimlong

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The seriousness of food insecurity in many developing economies has prompted this research into its key potential drivers. The thesis assesses primary data on Cambodia as a case study to examine potential impacts of (i) agricultural land property rights on household food insecurity of rice farmers in rural Cambodia, (ii) of excessive flooding and irrigation on rice productivity and rice revenue, and (iii) of rice productivity and rice revenue on household food insecurity. The primary data are taken from a household survey conducted between March and May 2014, administered to 256 households in 32 rural villages in rural Cambodia. The second part of the thesis examines (iv) the international experience of private property rights impacts on food insecurity, using data from 57 developing economies over 1990 to 2011. This cross-country examination is motivated by the Cambodian evidence to investigate whether the international evidence on the linkage exists. The plot-level evidence from Cambodia indicates that a one-unit increase in security in agricultural land property rights could reduce household food insecurity by about 1 day per annum on average. Security in agricultural land property rights could improve credit access, collateralisation, and farmers’ revenue-cost ratios. For rural rice farmers in Cambodia, simply holding ‘land documents’ of any type does not appear to have a strong impact on their food insecurity. The international evidence provides similar results to the Cambodian evidence: countries with greater private property rights experienced less food insecurity. A one-percent increase in property rights security potentially reduces prevalence of undernourishment and prevalence of food inadequacy by 0.85 percent and 0.64 percent on average, respectively. The plot-level evidence from Cambodia shows that providing irrigation for the currently unirrigated plots could raise per-harvest rice yield by about 0.7 tonnes and per-harvest rice revenue by about USD150 on average. Expanding access to formal irrigation, i.e., from reservoirs, dykes, or canals, could raise rice yield and rice revenue by about USD200 per harvest, relative to other irrigation types, such as river or groundwater irrigation. The household-level evidence from Cambodia shows that rice productivity and rice revenue are significantly, negatively associated with household food insecurity. Plots affected by excessive flooding had lower rice yield by about 0.7 tonnes per hectare, lower per-harvest rice revenue by about USD150, or lower per-hectare rice revenue by about USD140 on average, relative to those plots unaffected by excessive flooding. The thesis has identified four policy options for tackling food insecurity in Cambodia and developing economies. First, strengthening security in private agricultural property rights is an option for reducing household food insecurity in rural Cambodia. Relatedly, greater security in agricultural land property rights would improve credit access and land-based collateral use. Second, enhancing security in private property rights in developing economies would be key for lowering their national food insecurity. Third, expanding formal irrigation access and is another option for improving rice production and rice revenue. Fourth, strengthening mechanisms to cope with excessive flooding in rice-producing areas in rural Cambodia is key for improving rice production and rice revenue.



Food Insecurity, Private Property Rights, Security in Agricultural Land Property Rights, Natural Disaster Risks, Irrigation, Household, Cambodia, Developing Economies




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