Drought Infohubs: from drought trigger points to Prokah for drought coordination mechanism

Participant at the Drought Monitoring Infohub Mechanism Launch in Kampong Thom © Kelsea Clingeleffer/UNDP Cambodia

Kampong Cham, August 2020 - Drought Monitoring Infohub Mechanisms, known better as the ‘Drought Infohubs’, represent a new frontier in climate change adaptation.

Launching workshops for the Infohubs have this week been held in Kampong Cham and Kampong Thom. A total of 32 and 27 representatives (respectively) took part, including the National Committee for Disaster Management, relevant provincial departments such as Provincial Department of Water Resources and Meteorology, Provincial Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and Provincial Department of Rural Development, district officials, and the Cambodia Red Cross. A third launching workshop was held in Siem Reap later in the week.

For Mr. Pansiem Solydem, Secretariat Officer in charge of PCDM Coordination in Kampong Cham, the workshop couldn’t have come at a better time: “Until the rain that we had a few days ago there were 94 hectares of rice at risk due to drought, even though it is the wet season. In 2020, I have observed that the Mekong River is 2m lower than the same month in previous years, so there is still a risk of drought.”

Kampong Cham is a province that is no stranger to droughts. Recorded in CAMDI, the Cambodia disaster database, in 2004 over 79,800 hectares of crops were damaged while in the following year, 169,165 people were directly affected by drought impacts. In 2016, a total of 24,190 people were directly impacted by a drought that affected 3,531 hectares of crops and killed 1,135 cattle.

“In Cambodia, we have early warning for many disasters such as flood and storms. The problem is that early warning is a lot more challenging for droughts, particularly when they are slow-onset,” said Mr. Nop Polin, Senior Programme Officer for DanChurchAid Cambodia.

Handover of sensors for monitoring soil moisture and PH levels at the Kampong Cham workshop © Kelsea Clingeleffer/UNDP Cambodia

The launch workshop occurred as part of a partnership between DanChurchAid and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)-supported ‘Strengthening Climate Information and Early Warning Systems in Cambodia’ project,  funded by the GEF-Least Developed Countries Fund. Under previous phases of the project, DanChurchAid have also established Infohubs in Kampot, Takeo, Kampong Chhnang, Battambang and Pursat, in addition to the pilot Infohub that DanChurchAid established in Kampong Speu.

“The Infohubs provide a legal approach to coordination for drought. Sometimes there are different departments who have their own information and data, but they do not share this with each other. This leads to confusion. Now, under the prokah (provincial level law), departments such as the Provincial Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the Provincial Department of Water Resources and Meteorology and the Provincial Committee for Disaster Management can work together to gather, analyse and disseminate the drought warning and impacts,” stated Mr. Polin.

The prokah outlines the members of the Infohub mechanism as well as their responsibilities to avoid gaps and overlap in coordination. Mr. Solydem acknowledged this as being important: “We think it is really good that this is not just focused on building the capacity of provincial staff but also extends the support to district officials, who attended here today. These district staff can continue to disseminate this information to staff at that level and to commune officials.” As a result, coordination becomes vertical as well as horizontal.

The launch workshop enabled a number of important functions to be completed. The first of these was agreement on province-specific drought trigger points. These trigger points identify a series of indicators across various types of drought (meteorology, hydrology, agricultural, and socio-economic), as well as traditional methods of measuring drought.  As Mr. Polin described, these trigger points should be integrated into each province’s Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan (EPRP) to enable accurate disaster risk reduction and management.

Secondly, the workshop gave time to hand over five soil moisture sensors for testing the PH and moisture levels of soil to the Provincial Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. These sensors will then be handed on to the district level, where they will be used as part of the new drought trigger points. The raw information from the sensors will be passed onto the Provincial Department of Water Resources and Meteorology for documentation and analysis, before the results are returned to the Provincial Committee for Disaster Management for dissemination.

Finally, the workshop provided an opportunity for the various provincial departments to work together to develop a joint action plan, using the prokah, trigger points and each institution’s Emergency Preparedness and Response Plans. “One of the most important things for Kampong Cham [regarding drought] is the development of the joint action plan. The activities in it can’t be done by the secretariat alone, but needs to be coordinated in the relevant departments under the secretariat,” stated Mr. Solydem.

Drought management is important for the many people involved in agriculture in Kampong Cham and Kampong Thom © Kelsea Clingeleffer/UNDP Cambodia

Written by Kelsea Clingeleffer, Results Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Consultant. For more information, please contact Muhibuddin Usamah (Project Manager) at muhibuddin.usamah@undp.org

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