02 - December - 2011

The establishment of CARRDI was proposed by IRRI in 1987.  The Cambodian government strongly endorsed this proposal and for this purpose allocated 170 hectares at Khum Prateah Lang (about 18km south-west of Phnom Penh).  The main reason the (current) site had been selected was because it was predominantly rainfed lowland and thus representative of the older alluvial terraces that are dominant in Cambodia and also found elsewhere in Indochina.  It was envisaged that while the proposed CARRDI site was typical of Cambodia’s dominant rice ecosystem (rainfed lowland), not all activities would be carried out at the headquarters but also at provincial research stations throughout the country.

Dr Ernest Nunn (the IRRI research station development expert) visited Cambodia two months at the end of 1988 to develop a master plan for the establishment of the institute. This consultancy resulted in a funding proposal for CARRDI dated May 1989.  Dr Nunn’s input was followed by a month long visit from 16 March 1989 by Dr M E Raymundo who compiled a comprehensive soil survey report for the site. 
The development plan for CARRDI had been drawn up by IRRI in consultation with the Cambodian Ministry of Agriculture.  It included the construction of buildings, provision of vehicles and equipment, electrification, water supply, 32 hectares of irrigation development, farm roads and a perimeter fence.  The total projected budget for CARRDI development was estimated in 1990 at US$3.63million.  A modified program of work, delaying construction of some buildings to a subsequent phase would cost US$2.76million. 

The Department of Agronomy on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture through the Municipality of Phnom Penh and the district office Dangkor commenced negotiations with the farmers at Prateah Lang, and by early January 1990, they agreed to sell their land for 60,000 riels per hectare. The exchange rate at the time was 260 riels to the US$1, making the offer at US$230 per hectare. All but two of the 201 villagers agreed wholeheartedly to sell.  In addition to the US$230, the farmers were promised the use of unutilised land and were given the first preference for labourer positions at the institute. All farmers agreed to this proposal with a thumbprint endorsed consent on January 13, 1990.
The Cambodian government went through a period of severe fund shortages in 1990 and the farmers were not paid until September 14.  By this stage the value of the riel had dropped to 510 per US$1, halving the effective amount they were to receive.  All farmers reluctantly accepted but now weren’t quite so happy with the arrangements.  Problems were further compounded by a rise in land prices in Phnom Penh, although its effect had not yet reached the countryside.

Construction of the access road to the building site commenced at the beginning of June 1991 but the onset of the wet season prevented its completion.  Work recommenced in January 1993 but ceased the following month when the farmers demanded a higher payment for their rapidly appreciating land.  No progress was made resolving this problem until late 1996 when 100 hectares of the 170-hectare site was sold and the money distributed to the previous owners.
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