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Opportunities for Biomass Production in Cambodia

Donal Yeang

Faculty of Forest Science

University of Joensuu, Finland

Located in Southeast Asia, Cambodia covers an area of 181 035 square kilometers, with a
population of over 14 million (July 2008) of which about 85-90 percent lives in the rural
areas (Ministry of Rural Development 2006, Central Intelligence Agency 2008). More than
80 % of energy derives from biomass (De Lopez, 2003). Fuel wood is the major source of
energy for rural population and tile brick industries. According to De lopez, natural forests
are the main source of fuel wood in Cambodia that lead to severely degradation of forest for the
past twenty years. Currently, woody biomass also can be obtained from old rubber plantation
by harvesting the old rubber trees (Hevea brasiliensis) (Abe, 2007). In addition, the biomass
is not only the produce from woody plants but also the residues from agricultural crops such
as rice, sugar cane and maize (ReCambodia, n.d.).

Tree plantations would be highly suitable for supplying biomass fuel for rural mini-grid
electrification especially fast growing legumes such as Leucaena spp. and Gliricidia spp.,
farmers are able to harvest stems and branches one year after planting. There is about
111.3km2 of tree plantations of Acacia spp. and Eucalyptus spp but the purpose of these
plantations is generally production of wood chip materials for export (Abe, 2007).
Furthermore, there is currently about 2500km2 of grassland with scattered trees area in
Cambodia, a substantial proportion of which is abandoned lands and previously cleared
forest. Tree plantations for biomass production therefore have the great potential for
expansion, not only for rural electrification but also for main grid electricity supply (Abe,
2007). Recently, the government has introduced the Economic Land Concession scheme
which allows both domestic and foreign investors to gain access of state land especially
wasteland areas for forestry and agro-industrial plantation. As a result, several large scale
plantation of Jatropha (Jatropha curcas) are being established for bioenergy production and
because Jatropha is a non food and non animal feeding crop, it has the advantage not to
compete with food production within the country.
In conclusion, Economic Land Concession scheme will provide the opportunities for both oil
seed plants and woody tree plantation for biomass production to be established under this
scheme. However, the low level of awareness in biomass production from tree plantation is
still limited for the policy maker, private sectors and society compare to oil seed plant from
Jatropha. The lack of bioenergy technology is also a major obstacle for the development of
biomass production in Cambodia.


1. Abe, H., Katayama, A., P.Sah, B., Toriu, T., Samy, S., Pheach, P., and et al. (2007)
Potential for rural electrification based on biomass gasification in Cambodia. Journal
of Biomass and Bioenergy 31: 656–664

2. Cambodia Energy Sector Strategy (Draft)

3. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). 2008 .The World Factbook: Cambodia. Available

4. De Lopez, T. (2003) Assessing Cambodia ‘s potential for bioenery. Available at:

5. FAO (2007) Feasibility Study on Bio-Fuels for Food Security through Income
Generation of Rural Poor in Cambodia Available at:

6. Ministry of Rural Development. Information: Population of Cambodia. Available at:

7. ReCambodia (Cambodia Renewable Energy and Electrification) (n.d), ‘National

Databases: Biomass’. Available online at