Is Organic Agriculture a Viable Strategy in Contexts of Rapid Agrarian Transition? Evidence from Cambodia

Alice Beban


This paper draws on evidence from a field study of three organic agriculture development projects in Cambodia to look critically at the pursuit of organic agriculture as a rural development strategy in a context of rapid agrarian transition. I find that organic agriculture is a successful strategy for some households to improve the viability of land-based livelihoods as part of broader livelihood strategies, particularly within projects most closely aligned with an agroecological understanding valuing diversity and farmer knowledge. However, there are inherent contradictions in prescribing northern, market driven notions of farming success into the very different cultural and ecological settings of the Global South, and certification requirements, resource constraints and labor requirements can exclude some farmers. I argue that analysis of organic-farming as a rural development strategy needs to understand not just the direct economic returns, for the non-economic aspects, the broader socio-political contexts of uneven agrarian transition, and the ideology and practices of development agencies have a large bearing on the poverty reduction potential of organic farming.


Agrarian Transition; Cambodia; Global South; International Development; Livelihoods; Organic Agriculture

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