Agriculture and Human Values

, Volume 34, Issue 2, pp 347–362 | Cite as

Conservation agriculture and gendered livelihoods in Northwestern Cambodia: decision-making, space and access

  • Daniel SumnerEmail author
  • Maria Elisa Christie
  • Stéphane Boulakia


Smallholder farmers in Rattanakmondol District, Battambang Province, Cambodia face challenges related to soil erosion, declining yields, climate change, and unsustainable tillage-based farming practices in their efforts to increase food production within maize-based systems. In 2010, research for development programs began introducing agricultural production systems based on conservation agriculture (CA) to smallholder farmers located in four communities within Rattanakmondol District as a pathway for addressing these issues. Understanding gendered practices and perspectives is integral to adapting CA technologies to the needs of local communities. This research identifies how gender differences regarding farmers’ access to assets, practices, and engagement in intra-household negotiations could constrain or facilitate the dissemination of CA. Our mixed-methods approach includes focus group discussions, semi-structured interviews, famer field visits, and a household survey. Gender differences in access to key productive assets may affect men’s and women’s individual ability to adapt CA. Farmers perceive the practices and technologies of CA as labor-saving, with the potential to reduce men’s and women’s labor burden in land-preparation activities. However, when considered in relation to the full array of productive and reproductive livelihood activities, CA can disproportionately affect men’s and women’s labor. Decisions about agricultural livelihoods were not always made jointly, with socio-cultural norms and responsibilities structuring an individual’s ability to participate in intra-household negotiations. While gender differences in power relations affect intra-household decision-making, men and women household members collectively negotiate the transition to CA-based production systems.


Gender Livelihoods Conservation agriculture Decision-making Cambodia 



Conservation agriculture


Centre de Coopération International en Recherche pour le Développement


Direct-seeding mulch based cropping systems


Focus group discussion


Feminist political ecology


Cambodian Riel


Khmer Rouge


Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Fishers


Micro-finance institution


Office of International Research, Education and Development


Projet d’Appui à la Diversification Agricole du Cambodge


Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resource Management Innovation Lab


United States Agency for International Development


Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index



This research was made possible by the generous support of the American people, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and Feed the Future Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resource Management Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research (SANREM IL) under cooperative agreement number EPP-A-00-0400013-00. The authors would like to acknowledge the support of all the researchers and staff of the SANREM IL project in Cambodia, especially Dr. Manuel Reyes from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and Mr. Rada Kong from the Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Fishers (MAFF). The authors would also like to thank the two undergraduate research assistants from the University of Battambang, Ms. Sel Rechaney and Mr. Mao Rambo, who assisted with data collection activities.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel Sumner
    • 1
    Email author
  • Maria Elisa Christie
    • 1
  • Stéphane Boulakia
    • 2
  1. 1.Office of International Research, Education and DevelopmentVirginia TechBlacksburgUSA
  2. 2.Centre de Coopération International en Recherche Agronomique pour le DéveloppementIbagueColombia

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