Economic growth in Cambodia has taken a sharp downturn since the onset of the global financial crisis. Real GDP is set to contract this year, and income per capita, after increasing by some 8 percent per annum during a decade, stagnated in 2009. The immediate causes are well known less demand for Cambodia’s exports, slower growth in tourism, less foreign direct investment, weaker competitiveness due to high inflation last year, lower agriculture prices, and the adverse impact of the fall in real estate prices. The symptoms of lower growth are visible: garment exports are around 25 percent below last year’s levels; tourist arrivals are not growing much and air arrivals are down significantly; only 150-200 new firms are registered every month (against 250-300 firms before the downturn); construction has slowed, etc. Up until late August this was compounded by fears of drought, whereas now concern is shifting to the risk of floods, which highlights the vulnerability of farmers and those dependent on agriculture and in turn on the weather. The Global financial crisis and its impact on Cambodia have also its impact on CSARO and the communities it works with.
In an environment of escalating urban land values in Cambodia and speculative land buying and selling, the urban poor are constantly under threat of being moved to make way for high value property development. This has become a major problem in Phnom Penh and other fast growing cities in Cambodia - creating uncertainty for and putting at risk the livelihood of thousands of poor people living in disputed urban areas, many communities are threatened with forced eviction. The communities that are evicted are moved to the outskirts of the city, often with no shelter, water or sanitation. Because of the distance from the city there is also little access to schooling or employment.
CSARO has been focusing on the these marginalized communities, which lack paved roads and piped water supply and have basic or no-existent drainage, sanitation and electricity services. The new CSARO Waste Picker Development Center (WPDC) was opened this year close to a number of the communities, and houses a significant organic composting operation, training facilities and program offices. The sharp rise in the price of chemical fertilizers highlights the benefits of this cost effective and environmentally friendly approach. We continue to work on plans to raise the profile of this center as a model that can be used more widely. Exciting opportunities are opening up for CSARO to expand its work to
other provinces in the near future.