Government Planners Upskill to Help Farmers Fight Climate Change

Heng Hong grew up in a rice farming family in the shadow of Santuk Mountain, one of Kampong Thom province’s most sacred sites. There, as in much of Cambodia, a major shift in seasons is one of the most obvious signs of climate change.

“We used to have a 6-month dry season and a 6-month wet season, but in recent years the dry season has been 8-months long,” he says.

These days Mr. Hong is based in Phnom Penh and his sister runs the family rice farm, but he remains closely engaged with rural life through his role as Deputy Director for the Department of Community Livelihoods, under the Ministry of Environment.

Mr. Hong was one of 15 government planners from Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Viet Nam recently trained to work with communities to assess their vulnerability to climate change and to help find adaptation options.

Three workshops ­– funded by the GMS Core Environment Program and delivered by the Southeast Asia START Regional Center ­–  were held in Bangkok between August 2016 and February 2017. The participants learned to undertake situational analyses, risk profiling, future visioning, and how to identify and implement adaptation solutions. In between the workshops, the participants were encouraged to test their learning in the field.

Mr. Hong conducted his field work in Chikhaleu commune, located in Dong Peng Protected Area in Koh Kong province in the southwest of the country. Designated as one of Cambodia’s three ‘multiple use’ protected areas, communities within Dong Penh’s 27,000 hectares can sustainably use natural resources to support their livelihoods.

But times are getting tougher for many of its farming residents. Land conflicts have emerged recently as commercial sugar plantations take root and spread. Meanwhile, farmers with more secure tenure face a changing climate that means eking out a living from the land is becoming more and more challenging.

“Twenty years ago they grew rice twice a year as they could crop in the dry season, but now they can only grow in the wet season. There is a lack of water for agriculture, livestock, and also for sanitation,” Mr. Hong says.

He points out that farmers can no longer rely only on the’ know-how’ passed down by previous generations. Instead they need to learn technical solutions to adapt to the changing climate.

“Adaptation planning is very important for these farmers. They depend on natural resources to farm rice, raise livestock, and to gather non-timber forest products. If they don’t adapt to climate change it will destroy their livelihoods.”

Mr. Hong believes the CEP training will better enable him to work with communities to find solutions. While he had learned some adaptation concepts before, he described the training as “deep and detailed” and that it introduced valuable analytical tools and approaches.

One of his biggest takeaways was the need to consider future change scenarios and to plan for these rather than just think about the current situation.

Depending on funding opportunities in the future, Hong would like to conduct a full assessment with Chikhaleu and other communes in the area.

Learn more about the training program here.

Publish Date: 23rd February 2017

Last Updated: 23rd February 2017

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