Cambodia currently ranks 138 of 174 countries in the United Nations Human Development Index (UNDP 2012). 30% of the Cambodian population lives below the national poverty line of less than $1 US dollar per day, while 45.2% of children under the age of five are underweight. The major issues for poverty alleviation and development include the following factors:
- Cambodia has a weak infrastructure with poor community access to basic services – over 80% of the population live in rural areas, many with poor access to basic services including clean water, education and health facilities.
- Around 49% of the total literate population in Cambodia have not completed primary level education, with only 29% completing primary and lower secondary levels.
- Students studying at diploma level (which includes pre-secondary technical diploma, secondary/baccalaureate level, and post-Secondary technical diploma) constitute only 1.62% of the literate population.
- Undergraduate and graduate/degree holders together form only 1.47% of the total population.
- Rural poverty accounts for almost 90% of poverty in Cambodia which in turn has impacted on infant mortality rates, with the current rate reaching 58 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, one of the highest rates in South East Asia (General Population Census of Cambodia 2008).
The majority of the Stung Treng province population relies upon rain-fed agriculture for income and subsistence. Without education or viable alternative employment opportunities, many local people continue to partake in environmentally damaging activities such as illegal fishing, logging or drug trafficking to earn an income. Farmers growing rice are at risk of floods which can render their families destitute, due to it being an annual single harvest crop.