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Young Cambodians leave the countryside behind

Young Cambodians leave the countryside behind


Farmers tend to their crops in rural Cambodia. Photograph: Phnom Penh Post

Cambodia is a developing country that depends largely on agriculture and crops cultivate in the rural areas. Young people are a vital source of energy needed to help the sector grow.

However, according to a new report on the internal migration in Cambodia from rural to urban areas, around 50 percent of people leave their home to live in Phnom Penh.

The same report, published on September 3 by the Ministry of Planning and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), shows that a large amount of migrants are age from 15 to 29, meaning that the number of elderly people in the village is disproportionately high.

According to Mr. Oeur Sam At, executive manager at the NGO Help Our Homeland Association (HOH), young people play an invaluable role in rural society. They attend community meetings, report issues, voice opinions, share information about the electorate and constitute an important part of the vote. They serve as a check on the electoral candidates to encourage them to keep election promises.

“If young people were not involved in the village, we would face a shortage of labourers, poor security and media and so on, all of which would affect the village economy and slow down development.”

Mrs. Mao, 53, has four children who all work in Phnom Penh. She has no help at home, and has to do farming and other household chores alone. In summer, she struggles to water the fields and build the dam to hold back flood waters.  

A farmer and a father of two children, Kim San, 68, who lives in Sangkae District, Battambang Province, says that he and his wife have found it difficult to carry out all the work, especially in the fields, since his oldest son went to college and his daughter was married. “It was hard since there is too much work in the field and I spend a lot of energy on it,” he said.

Because of the difficulties and his age, Mr. San has to let some of his land alone for other farmers to rent and shift from the crops he used to grow to other kinds that are easier to cultivate, like corn.

For the children who move, the city offers employment prospects and a better wage. Vy Roeurn, a construction worker who moved to Phnom Penh, said: “Working here makes me more money than being a farmer. My parents at home take care of the farm.”

But some young people who go to the city develop ideas to improve their hometowns while there. Mr. Lauv Vy, a new graduate of the Royal University of Agriculture, said that he and his friends have an idea to improve their hometown through knowledge gained at school.

He wants people in his village to work in a network to pool experience and skill and set fixed prices at the market.

“If one farmer has 10 kilograms of chicken, a group of farmers will have around 100 kilograms, so it is easy for them to bargain with merchants,” he said.

Nonetheless, migration can harm as well as help the country, according to Help Our Homeland. The NGO wants to prevent the mass movement of the population by educating people about the negative side-effects it can have on the rural communities.

Despite the side-effects, however, he would still urge young people to leave their home-towns to pursue good jobs or education – especially if they can develop ideas to bring back home.


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