Tree nursery in a village in Kampong Speu, Cambodia. Over the past five to ten years, the cycles of drought and rainfall have changed considerably, something that has been clearly noticed among people in rural areas.
Photo: Sothira Seng/Forum Syd
Understanding climate change important for adaptation
“There is a lot of prejudice that climate change is very complicated and academic; but through the training courses we have provided, the issue has been brought down to a concrete level. It is simply about being able to support yourself with food,” says Åsa Thomasson, Regional Director at Forum Syd in Cambodia, one of the three organisations implementing the Sida-financed project Joint Climate Change Initiative (JCCI).
The JCCI project is about adaptation – to make people better prepared to deal with climate change. In order to succeed, it is crucial to reach out to people in rural areas, and through the local NGOs who are present there. There are 22 organisations, working primarily with rural development, that participate in the project. The objective is to integrate a climate change perspective in the work the organisations carry out among their members.
The first step was to undergo basic training to learn about climate change. Then the participants had to go out and hold workshops among the villagers in the rural districts. Together they discussed the type of changes that villagers see in their local environment and what can be done to adapt to them. After the training course, the organisations were given the opportunity to propose a pilot project to take the work further.
“The pilot projects have dealt with different activities, such as cooperating with the local authorities to develop disaster management plans, integrating adaptation in the local investment plans or improving livelihoods through fish farming and vegetable cultivation”, she says.
One of the positive side-effects which several organisations mention is that the sometimes conflicting relationship that previously existed in the cooperation with the municipalities, has now improved significantly.
“Unlike corruption for example, climate change is perceived as a neutral problem, and politicians have realised the need to adapt to it,” says Åsa Thomasson.
To provide the poor and agriculturally dominated Cambodia with food is dependent on the great Lake Tonlé Sap regularly flooding the plains. But the right type of flooding is required and the right type of drought, in order for the rice plantations to be able to grow well, and for the flooded fields to also serve as an important source for fishing. Over the past five to ten years, the cycles of drought and rainfall have changed considerably, something that has been clearly noticed among people in rural areas.
“When people gain a better understanding of what is happening around them and why, their willingness to become involved increases. I am pleasantly surprised by how much tangible adaptation work has already taken place in the pilot projects,” says Åsa Thomasson.
The adaptation projects carried out under JCCI have also been about testing alternative forms of cultivation that are less vulnerable to drought and flooding, reforestation to stop erosion, or organising local climate change committees that have produced their own action plans on how to respond to drought and flooding.
In addition to the pilot projects, JCCI has produced information on climate change in Khmer, the local language, which was not previously available.
Facts: JCC and Cambodia
A total of 22 local Cambodian organisations make up JCCI; 10 organisations in phase 1, with each of them implementing their pilot projects at the beginning of 2011. An additional 12 organisations are included in a second phase and are in the process of putting together proposals for pilot projects after having participated in the training.
Sida’s support to the JCCI amounts to 11 MSEK for 2010-2012.
According to research from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), agriculture in Asia will be seriously affected by climate change, in particular Cambodia, by the year 2025.
It is estimated that flooding is the cause of 70 per cent of the destruction of agriculture in Cambodia. 20 per cent is due to drought and the remaining 10 per cent is due to pests and diseases.