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Blood Sugar: life in the Cambodian su...
Cambodia
By Ruom
04 Jul 2014

Human rights organisations have estimated that 12,000 people in Cambodia have been forced off their land to make way for a new surge of sugar production. The European Union’s initiative ‘Everything but Arms’, which allows Cambodian sugar to be sold duty-free on the European market at a minimum price per tonne, has created a “sugar rush” in Cambodia. As a result, crops have been razed. Animals have been shot. Homes have been burned to the ground. Thousands of people have been left destitute. Some have been thrown in jail for daring to protest. Given no option but to accept inadequate compensations, villagers gave up their homes and farmlands.

The EU is, to date, yet to investigate these reports.

In the meantime, families forced off their land, who have lost their only source of income, have little choice but to work for the very companies who have claimed their land, either at factory level, or cutting and bundling sugar canes for rates as low as US$2.50 per day. The dire economic situation means that children also work in the cane fields but still the families earn barely enough money to survive.

On March 2013, a lawsuit was filed in the UK against Tate&Lyle, the multi-national sugar giant, to which the majority of exports from the Koh Kong plantation are being sent. 200 Cambodian farmers are suing the company for violating their rights as, under Cambodian law, the fruits of the land belong to the landowner (or lawful possessor in this case). According to humanitarian organizations Tate&Lyle is knowingly benefiting from the harvest of stolen land, and the rightful owners of the harvest are not receiving their share of sugar sales.
Land ownership in Cambodia is difficult to establish, due to the country’s evolving legal and political structures following the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime, and the country is slowly trying to re-establish land titling through government programs. Though in the past, and still for the time being, small-scale farmers and poor households are often forced to give up their land for little compensation.

Fair development and industrialization is a struggle for this South East Asian nation, where, for the right price, powerful landowners, wealthy businessmen, and foreign investors have their pick of the country’s prime real estate.

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Blood Sugar 016
By Ruom
29 Mar 2013

January 8, 2013
Omliang, Kampong Speu, Cambodia

Trucks offload the sugar cane onto a belt that takes the cane into a crusher.

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Blood Sugar 020
By Ruom
16 Jan 2013

January 16, 2013
Srei Ambel, Koh Kong, Cambodia

Sugar cane collectors come back home after a day of work.

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Blood Sugar 013
By Ruom
16 Jan 2013

January 16, 2013
Srei Ambel, Koh Kong, Cambodia

B. S. (11) takes a break from working on the sugar cane plantation. Seth works normally 2 days a week trying to not miss too many days of school.

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Blood Sugar 006
By Ruom
16 Jan 2013

January 16, 2013
Srei Ambel, Koh Kong, Cambodia

B. S. (11) carries a bunch of sugar cane. To help his family (evicted from their land in 2006 to make way for the sugar plantation), S. works normally 2 days a week trying to not loose too many days of school.

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Blood Sugar 012
By Ruom
16 Jan 2013

January 16, 2013
Srei Ambel, Koh Kong, Cambodia

N. T. even if he's just 9 years old, helps his parents count and make bunches of sugar canes. He's from Bang Village, about 2 hours drive away from the plantations, where he lives with his other 2 brothers. His family decided to start working in the plantations as the area is suffering a very strong drought and they are not able to cultivate their lands.

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Blood Sugar 011
By Ruom
16 Jan 2013

January 16, 2013
Srei Ambel, Koh Kong, Cambodia

In order to facilitate the cutting, the sugar cane workers burn part of the fields.

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Blood Sugar 017
By Ruom
16 Jan 2013

January 16, 2013
Srei Ambel, Koh Kong, Cambodia

Sugar cane collectors wait to be payed after a hard days work. They earn around 2.5 USD per day, and their employment normally lasts only three months per year.

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Blood Sugar 005
By Ruom
16 Jan 2013

January 16, 2013
Srei Ambel, Koh Kong, Cambodia

A woman cuts sugar cane in the sugar plantation of Srei Ambel, Koh Kong, Cambodia.

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Blood Sugar 009
By Ruom
16 Jan 2013

January 16, 2013
Srei Ambel, Koh Kong - Cambodia

C.S (14yr. old) works a couple days a week in the plantion to help his family. In order to facilitate the cutting, sugar cane fields are burnt before harvesting.

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Blood Sugar 024
By Ruom
15 Jan 2013

January 15, 2013
Srei Ambel, Koh Kong, Cambodia

K. K. (13) hugs his little sister after a day working in the sugar cane plantations. This picture is part of a project called Blood Sugar, an in-depth piece on the boom of the sugar industry in Cambodia, and the effects this rapid development is having on small-scale farmers and rural communities.

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Blood Sugar 015
By Ruom
09 Jan 2013

January 9, 2013
Omliang, Kampong Speu, Cambodia

Machinery is used to load the trucks with sugar cane.

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Blood Sugar 001
By Ruom
08 Jan 2013

January 8, 2013
Omliang, Kampong Speu

Manual labourers camp at the Phnom Penh Sugar plantation.

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Blood Sugar 025
By Ruom
08 Jan 2013

January 8, 2013
Omliang, Kampong Speu, Cambodia

Laborers bathe near the manual laborers camp, Phnom Penh sugar plantation.

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Blood Sugar 014
By Ruom
08 Jan 2013

January 8, 2013
Omliang, Kampong Speu, Cambodia

Trucks wait to enter the factory to unload the sugar cane.

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Blood Sugar 004
By Ruom
08 Jan 2013

January 8, 2013
Omliang, Kampong Speu, Cambodia

The little primary school of Omlaing. According to the teachers, there's a very high rate of children who leave the school (mainly of students above 15/16 years old) to work in the plantations of sugar cane, as many families have lost their lands and they need more income.

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Blood Sugar 027
By Ruom
08 Jan 2013

January 8, 2013
Omliang, Kampong Speu, Cambodia

A family prepares breakfast before they start working in the sugar cane plantations.

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Blood Sugar 018
By Ruom
07 Jan 2013

January 8, 2013
Omliang, Kampong Speu, Cambodia

T. N. (61) walks home after a day working in the plantations. She was evicted from her 7 hectares of land in 2011, and was forced to accepted a compensation of 300USD (the estimate value of 1 hectare is around 5.000 USD). Now she and her family, don't own any land and they're not self-sufficient anymore (2.5 of the 7 hectares were rice fields) and they had to ask the bank for loans.