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Cambodia, looking to the horizon, prepares for drought

A list of drought triggers developed by two InfoHubs, in consultation with the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, will outline the thresholds for declaring a localised drought, while an action plan will identify the roles of agencies in preparing and responding. Photo: Kampong Thom, 2012 © Chansok Lay/UNDP Cambodia

New partnership on drought preparedness further supports Cambodia in climate change preparedness and realising the goals of Agenda 2030 and Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 

Phnom Penh, 30 January 2019 – In an effort to reduce the impact of drought on two of Cambodia’s most at-risk provinces, Kampot and Takeo, UNDP Cambodia and DanChurchAid have joined together to establish two new provincial drought information hubs and to train farmers and local communities in climate-resilient agriculture. The initiative marks another in a series of partnerships forged by UNDP under a project strengthening climate information and early warning systems in Cambodia.

Around 2,300 farmers and 30 provincial officials in Takeo (Bati, Samrong and Tramkok Districts) and Kampot (Teuk Chhou and Banteay Meas Districts) provinces are expected to directly benefit, with another 1.47 million people in the two provinces to benefit from early warning systems.

The initiative scales up a ‘Drought Monitoring InfoHub’ piloted by DanChurchAid in Kampong Speu in 2017. The first of its kind in Cambodia­, the Drought InfoHub brought together provincial line departments of the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and the National Committee for Disaster Management to identify vulnerabilities, improve monitoring, and to equip provincial authorities to take swift action to prepare their communities when drought-like conditions develop.

“Because more than three-quarters of Cambodia’s population relies primarily on subsistence agriculture, droughts and floods threaten to tip large numbers of people into poverty. Preparing for these events – particularly in the face of climate change – is critical to helping communities not just adapt, but prosper,” said UNDP Early Warning Systems Project Manager Muhibuddin Usamah. “The hub established by DanChurchAid in Kamphong Speu presents best practices for provincial-level drought co-ordination. We’re pleased to be replicating it in two more of Cambodia’s most vulnerable provinces, provinces where UNDP has recently supported the installation of automatic weather stations and automatic hydrological stations.”

Localised floods and droughts are frequent, recurring events in Cambodia. Following severe and widespread floods in 2013, in 2015 Cambodia experienced its worst drought in half a century, with most of its 25 provinces experiencing water shortages, and around 2.5 million people severely affected. In 2012, drought across 11 provinces adversely affected tens of thousands of hectares of rice paddies.

Climate projections point to more intense – and unpredictable – wet and dry seasons, and higher average temperatures, with implications for water security, food security, livelihoods, and health. One study found that severe drought during one rice producing season can result in over 80 per cent of the potential harvest being lost. In turn, reduced agricultural production can cause hunger and malnutrition, negatively affect Cambodia’s overall economic performance, and hamper progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

By the end of May 2019, covering Kampot and Takeo provinces, the project expects to:

  • establish two provincial Drought InfoHubs;
  • train at least 20 provincial officials and partners on drought monitoring and response;
  • train 50 local agricultural co-operative leaders in drought-resistant agricultural techniques (such as water conservation and crop diversification) using a train-the-trainer methodology; and
  • train 450 farmers in drought-resistant agricultural techniques.

“The Drought InfoHub is a working group of provincial officials from across line departments, facilitating information sharing and improving early response and mitigation around drought. It is in large part about equipping disaster management officials and smallholder farmers with the information they need to make decisions to reduce risks,” said Usamah. “Given its complexity, making sure local stakeholders understand drought is the first step in mitigating its impacts.”

Increasing the resilience of rural infrastructure to droughts – including irrigation systems, wells, and ponds, improving human and institutional capacity, and improving meteorological and hydrological services – are identified as key priorities under Cambodia’s Climate Change Strategic Plan 2014-2023.

UNDP plans to work further with Dan Church Aid under the ‘Strengthening Climate Information and Early Warning Systems in Cambodia’ project, expanding the information hubs to other provinces and linking them with the global drought monitoring initiative managed by SERVIR Mekong.

Update July 2019: Having successfully set up drought info hubs in Kampot and Takeo, UNDP has expanded the partnership with DanChurchAid to set up info hubs, roll out training and install rain gauges and soil moisture sensors  in Kampong Chhnang, Pursat and Battambang provinces. In addition to establishing the hubs, some officials and communites will take part in drought-resistant agricultural techniques and an exchange visit with existing farmers from Kampong Speu or Kampot province.  An additional 4,500 farmers and 60 provincial officials are expected to directly benefit.


About the ‘Strengthening Climate Information and Early Warning Systems in Cambodia’ project

With financing from the GEF-Least Developed Countries Fund, the UNDP-supported project Strengthening Climate Information and Early Warning Systems in Cambodiaaims to increase Cambodia’s institutional capacity to assimilate and forecast weather, hydrological, and climate information for adaptation, disaster preparedness, and early warning. The project has recently completed the installation of 24 automatic weather stations and 24 automatic hydrological stations nation-wide.

About DanChurchAid

DanChurchAid is an independent Danish non-governmental charitable organisation providing emergency relief in disaster-stricken areas, and long-term development assistance in resource-constrained regions to create a more equitable and sustainable world.

The organisation has extensive experience delivering drought management training at the national, sub-national and local levels in Cambodia, including equipping smallholder farmers and agricultural co-operatives with knowledge of drought-resistant agricultural techniques and access to a forecast-based crop advisory system to help them better adapt to changing weather conditions.

Related articles

'UNDP and People in Need continue collaboration to realise a weather-ready climate-smart Cambodia', November 2018

'Linking technology and community early warning: UNDP and People in Need to extend disaster early warning for Koh Kong and Sihanoukville communities', September 2018

'Knowledge is everything when it comes to early warning', June 2018

For further information, please contact:

Mr Muhibuddin Usamah, Early Warning Systems Project Manager, UNDP Tw: @muhiusamah

Ms Kristen Rasmussen, DCA Country Director, Tw: @DanChurchAid