• Climate Resilience on the ground: Talk to Farmers!

    Submitted by Ou Chanthearith

    Learning about climate resilient development planning does not  happen from behind a desk. That's why Cambodia’s Adaptation Working Group, recently formed under the CIF’s Pilot Program for Climate Resilience (PPCR), headed to the country’s flood plains to explore best practices and challenges for climate change adaptation. Adaptation – or creating a more resilient society - is crucial here in Cambodia, where climate change means drought and flooding have become more severe and frequent.

    During site visits, I was particularly struck by what farmers had to say about how they are adapting to the changing weather patterns already observed in their locality. Water is one of the biggest issues they face - too much in the wet season and too little the rest of the year.  Farmers told us that their normal practice of counting on one main crop for their annual production was becoming too risky. 

    They are on the frontlines of the climate challenge and they are piloting innovative solutions. We met farmers who are rotating their crops to suit the changing climate conditions so that they can cultivate their land year round. Others talked to us about organizing Farmer Water User Groups as a way to better manage their limited water resources. Such local adaptation practices are positive signs. But they also highlight the urgent need for national policies and programs on climate resilient development to reinforce and scale-up these local efforts.

    Dealing with these challenges and threats requires inputs and efforts from across all government departments. That’s why the Adaptation Working Group is made up of climate change focal persons from ministries responsible for the SPCR’s target sectors: agriculture, water resources management, urban development and transport. It also includes the agencies overseeing decentralization and gender equality. 

    During our three days with local leaders in Prey Veng Province, we visited sites that demonstrate good examples of climate resilient development as well as others that show the challenges of managing more extreme weather.   In November, we organized a training program on Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptation Planning (VA & AP) in another province, Battambang. For the latter, the Adaptation Working Group jointly assessed an irrigation canal and examined its capacity to serve the areas’ farmers now and in the face of future climate change impacts.

    Before new programs and policies can move ahead, and innovative solutions like the grassroots Farmer Water User Groups can be brought to scale, we need to provide government planners with the knowledge and tools to effectively design and implement such initiatives. Cambodia’s Strategic Program for Climate Resilience, will continue to combine theory and practice to build this knowledge. Going out to communities, observing climate change impacts, and talking with Cambodian women and men about challenges and solutions will be an ongoing part of the Adaptation Working Group’s learning and actions.

    Ou Chanthearith is Program Manager for Mainstreaming Climate Resilience into Development Planning under the SPCR in Cambodia. He has been playing this role actively in this project since 2013.

    He has been working for government since 1999 and from late 2009, he was promoted to be Deputy Director of Department of Climate Change. Currently, he is assigned to the Department of Science and Technology under the General Secretariat of the National Council for Sustainable Development, the Ministry of Environment. He has a Master Degree in Management from the Philippines.