Institutional development and the socio-economic resilience of the riverine rural communities in the Lower Meking Basin, Cambodia

  • Serey Sok

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis aims to improve the socio-economic resilience of the riverine communities in the Lower Mekong Basin (LMB), Cambodia, through enhancing the institutional development of aspects of advantages and risks, factors of unsustainable livelihoods, engagement of external and local institutions, and external dependency. Three hypotheses are tested: (1) livelihoods are highly influenced by assets, poverty, food insecurity, hazards and local trans-boundary influences; (2) existing external and local institutions have failed to improve adaptation and resilience; and, (3) development programmes are ineffective due to insufficient funding by the central government and the short-term policies of Non-governmental Organization (NGOs). This research hinges on dependency theory, concepts of adaptation and resilience, and a sustainable livelihood framework. Quantitative and qualitative analyses were employed as the main research methods. The Upper, Middle, and Lower stretches of the Mekong River were selected as case studies. The research discovered four main findings: (1) livelihoods in the LMB have proven unsustainable in the periods 2001-10 and 2011-20, with high rates of poverty and food insecurity due to heterogeneous growth; lack of rural diversification; insufficient assets; inappropriate strategies; and the impacts of environmental and socio-economic change; (2) neither external nor local institutions were able to reify the capacity of the villagers to adapt to shock and stress resulting from floods, drought, and high food prices: nor could they improve resilience to declines in water-related resources, i.e., water, fisheries and forestry; (3) external institutional support for sustainable livelihood development has proven ineffective due to insufficient government funds,high aid dependency and fragmentation, incoherence of development agendas, and unclear Decentralization & Deconcentration (D&D) mechanisms; and, (4) as the main local institutions, Commune Councils (CoCs) have been weakly established with inadequate human and financial resources; poor private partnerships; limited authority in decision-making, and high dependency on external support. Hypothesis 1 is partially rejected but hypotheses 2 and 3 are proven. The research has also contributed to the extant academic literature, namely in the areas of sustainable livelihoods frameworks, and concepts of adaption and resilience. In the interests of realising socio-economic resilience of the riverine communities in the LMB, the future efforts of governments, international donors, NGOs and CoCs should be directed towards: (1) alleviating poverty and food insecurity; (2) strengthening the capacity of adaption and resilience; and, (3) reducing external dependency. In particular, external institutions should fully support CoCs and the communities with long-term capacity building through on-job training, agricultural extension services, and private sector participation.
Date of Award18 Oct 2013
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorXiaojiang YU (Supervisor)

User-Defined Keywords

  • Cambodia
  • Mekong River Watershed
  • Rural conditions

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