L ANDMINES are seriously disrupting rice production in Cambodia, according to a
new report by Cambodia IRRI and the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC), which
found that 55,000 hectares of rice fields are out of use because of
The researchers - including Harry Nesbitt of IRRI and Navuth Chhay
of CMAC - conducted their study using satellite imagery, topographical maps and
overlaying these with mine-filled locations provided by CMAC.
that most of the mined rice-growing areas are located within Banteay Meanchay,
Battambang and Siem Riep provinces.
"A cessation of war and the
improvement in the security of isolated areas would see a rapid expansion of
rice production in Cambodia, both through the utilization of marginal farming
land and by the adoption of more modern and sustainable farming techniques," the
"Clearing 55,000 hectares of mine-fields would assist
this process considerably."
The study notes that at the current rate of
mine clearance, it would take CMAC 30,000 years to clear Cambodia of landmines,
which affect 300,000 hectares. Most of these minefields are in
difficult-to-clear forest areas.
In the mid-1960s, Cambodia was exporting
over 500,000 milled tons of rice a year, and "showed potential for increasing
production even further," the study says. But many more hecatares were being
cultivated then. More than 2.5 million hectares of rice was grown a year in the
mid-1960s, compared to 1.9 million hectares today. Not all the shrinkage is due
to mines. Some former rice fields have been returned to forest land and some
deepwater and rain fed areas are not being cultivated.