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Cambodia: travel and (fair) trade

Khmer culture was forged in the Angkor Empire and survived the Khmer Rouge. Today, travellers will see Cambodia reflects both, and the broad spectrum of human experience in between.


“Negotiate a river by following its bends, enter a country by following its customs,” goes the Cambodian proverb. And the Cambodians should know. Khmer culture stretches back to the ninth century, forged in the heady heights of the Angkor Empire and surviving the horrific depths of the Khmer Rouge. Today’s Cambodia reflects both, and the broad spectrum of human experience in between.

It’s a place where natural beauty and ancient marvels coexist with scars of the most appalling brutality that our species is capable of.

Its people – half of whom are younger than 15 – also bear both the beauty and the scars, with an undercurrent of reserve beneath the hospitable warmth. For the traveller, Cambodia is an alluring study in resilience and revival, all wrapped up with a tropical climate, delectable cuisine and well-priced beer.

According to the World Bank more than 3.7 million Cambodians are living in poverty. The genocide of the 1970s continues to have a significant impact on family life with women heading up the household in an estimated one in five families. Economic hardship is especially prevalent in these families who struggle to maintain a livelihood but Fairtrade can provide a solution for many families.

The silversmiths of Cambodia are a classic example of the nation's intrinsic resilience. As an art form, metal work reached its zenith in the Angkorian glory days around the 11th century, and the intricate designs that now adorn jewellery, treasure boxes and even chopsticks hark back to the temple friezes and carvings that have survived the centuries. Social enterprises like Rajana Association, which represents more than 100 producers throughout the country, are buoying the resurrection of this artistic legacy, not only for its cultural and social value but as a means of supporting sustainable livelihoods.

Choosing a piece of Cambodian jewellery acknowledges and champions this spirit of resilience. We hope it will bring a little piece of that spirit into your everyday as well. Thank you!