Bitter sweet: how market crops facilitate frontier transformation

15 August 2019

An innovative new website launched today tells the bittersweet story of how market crops in Cambodia are transforming communities and landscapes.

Bitter Sweet tells the story of Kunthea, a new settler in Cambodia’s northeast border region. The site was developed in collaboration with the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific’s CartoGIS team, and draws on the Future Fellowship research of Crawford School’s Associate Professor Sango Mahanty.

It illustrates dramatic land and community transformation in Cambodia through striking images, maps, and story telling. Kunthea’s story highlights some significant challenges facing the country, including how cassava grown in forest frontiers responds to global demand for starch, while contributing to land clearing, soil quality decline, and rural debt.

“The story of cassava in Cambodia’s uplands is bitter-sweet,” Associate Professor Mahanty writes on the site.

“Crops like cassava are entangled in processes such as migration, land claiming, market formation and debt, that are transforming frontier landscapes, and ultimately global environments.

“This raises questions about the social and environmental sustainability of these market crops. We also need to think carefully about life cycle costs when advocating ‘green’ fuels such as ethanol.”

Visit the Bitter Sweet website here:

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Updated:  22 May 2024/Responsible Officer:  Crawford Engagement/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team