The doctoral dissertations of the former Helsinki University of Technology (TKK) and Aalto University Schools of Technology (CHEM, ELEC, ENG, SCI) published in electronic format are available in the electronic publications archive of Aalto University - Aaltodoc.

Can the Poor Enhance Poverty Reduction? Rural and Urban Perspectives on Water Resources, Poverty & Participatory Development in the Tonle Sap Region and Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Ulla K. Heinonen (née Haapala)

Dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Science in Technology to be presented with due permission of the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture for public examination and debate in Auditorium R1 at Helsinki University of Technology (Espoo, Finland) on the 30th of October, 2009, at 12 noon.

Dissertation in PDF format (ISBN 978-952-248-094-1)   [2684 KB]
Dissertation is also available in print (ISBN 978-952-248-093-4)


In recent years, Cambodia has seen a significant economic growth. However, this development has not reached the poorest dwellers, resulting in escalating inequality. The Tonle Sap Region is one of the poorest regions in the country. The livelihoods of the region's poor are greatly dependent on water resources. The livelihoods are thus vulnerable to possible changes in water resources associated with the current development plans. By contrast, Phnom Penh, which is the main destination for the region's migrants when searching for a better level of living, is struggling with increasing poverty, informality and inequality.

Participatory development is considered crucial when aiming at equal poverty reduction. Consequently, this study analyzes the strategies used by the poor to participate in decision-making and to enhance poverty reduction in urban and rural areas of Cambodia. Furthermore, the study analyzes the role of water resources and migration in the country's poverty reduction. The study focuses especially on grass root level observations. Hence, the participatory studies and expert interviews undertaken serve as a major source of information for the research.

This study identifies various strategies used by the poor for participating and enhancing poverty reduction. Many of these, however, are rather narrow, project-based and fragile, and thus have only limited impacts on general poverty reduction and empowerment in the study regions. To conclude, poverty reduction is hindered by the lack of competent authorities and sound policies to address poverty, inequality and informality as well as mistrust and weaknesses within the communities. Improving the possibilities of the poor to enhance poverty reduction calls for several changes at both the community and decision-making level.

Keywords: poverty reduction, participation, water resources management, migration, Tonle Sap, Phnom Penh

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© 2009 Helsinki University of Technology

Last update 2011-05-26