To compensate for changes in rainfall patterns in a Cambodian agricultural territory
In Cambodia, the administrative units are divided as follows: the country is first divided into provinces, which are themselves divided into districts and/or municipalities if they are urbanized territories. Districts and municipalities therefore form the second mesh of the territorial division. They also have equivalent responsibilities. Finally, these are subdivided into municipalities and/or districts, then into villages. The province of Takeo, in the south of the country, is home to nearly 1.2 million people and covers an area of 3668 km². It is divided into 9 districts and 1 municipality. As of 2011, the province has benefited from a United Nations program called Local Government for Climate Change (LGCC). This programme consists in the implementation of projects to increase the resilience of local populations to climate change but also to include this issue in local government planning and financing. It should be noted that the first reports of climate change-related upheavals were visible about 7 years ago, at the beginning of the project.
Targeted territories for the project within the complex administrative network
The vast majority of the population of Takeo province is female farmers, so only one tenth of the population works in the service sector. This distribution is of great importance, as rural and farming populations are among the people most exposed to changes in climatic conditions with regard to their economic activities. We have been able to list some of the current concerns of the local government in this regard, which is particularly concerned about droughts, water management but also the disturbances around the Mekong River. In particular, 4 districts of the province are affected by irregular flooding of the river in this province, as they are located at low altitudes. The local government has selected 2 districts and the municipality in the province for this project, and one of these 2 districts is concerned by the problems related to the proximity of the Mekong: Bourei Cholsar. The other district, Bathi, is home to Lumpong commune, which was visited as part of the project. Before the project, the inhabitants had to fetch water 1 km away by sharing springs with other villages. Water sources are wells that generally require about ten boreholes before they can be found. In this commune, where families own on average between half a hectare and 2 hectares, 20 to 30% of the villages have access to spring water. The municipality therefore has great difficulties in its water supply. All these data on water resources have helped to guide the target districts in the establishment of the ponds.
A vast development infrastructure project
The actions undertaken within the framework of the project are of 2 main types: there are those related to infrastructure, and all the others are not. This is in line with the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), which is particularly concerned with this sector for the United Nations. The first category concerns, for example, the construction of roads, various constructions or the rehabilitation of ponds. The second category includes the rest, ranging from disaster management to improving the resilience of rice fields in the event of a climate event and the implementation of varieties as part of climate change adaptation. During the planning phase, UNCDF carried out a risk analysis of climate change-related disasters in order to select the most relevant districts/municipalities for the implementation of the pilot projects. For example, they had relied on the particular needs of low areas, with the prospect of building a road to travel through them even in the event of flooding. They had also carried out studies on water supplies in some districts to study the establishment of storage ponds. The project is implemented by the LGCC, which prioritizes actions according to climate change issues, and the municipalities play the role of coordinator only.
The actions undertaken also aim to strengthen the governance of farmers within the territory. The project therefore included a first phase in 2011, and is currently in phase 2 since 2012. The coordinators are UNCDF as well as the various administrative links of the province of Takeo, such as the rural development committee, project management advisors on climate change and in general all representatives related to the themes addressed by the various actions undertaken within the framework of this project (telecommunications, finance, agriculture, urban planning). The national coordinator of the project is the National Committee for Subnational Democratic Development (NCDD), which is a national administrative network.
Between the two phases of the project, the policies applied were renewed in the same way with funding that varied, however. For the first phase, the total budget of the project was $ 120,000, for nearly 37400 beneficiaries, including 18,167 women. The envelope has then been reassessed at about $150,000 per year since Phase 2, for a total of 66180 beneficiaries, including 36,000 women. The majority of the funds come from Swedish government funds. In each district or municipality invested in the project, 3 to 4 employees are dedicated to this project, and they work together within the National Committee for Subnational Democratic Development. The number of pilot projects and the number of districts and municipalities involved are linked to the funds allocated to the project.
An example of a climate change project: A rainwater supply for the dry season
We visited a pond in Lompong commune (which includes 12 villages), in Bathi district, in the presence of most of the stakeholders involved in the implementation of this project. In 2011, during the prospective study, this municipality suffered a 6-month drought. The free water from the pond is used for domestic purposes, for drinking water after boiling, and for irrigating vegetables in the garden adjacent to the farmers' house. The ponds respond to droughts that the municipality is facing, which result in a lack of water for consumption, for watering animals or for rice fields. The transport is done daily with heads of households who come in turn to collect this water with cans for 3-4 families. A pond is used by about 4 villages, for a group of about 800 families, mostly women farmers. The LGCC (Local Government for Climate Change) wants to establish a sustainable use of this water given the number of people who depend on these ponds. A water management committee was set up to ensure that farmers can have a role in decision-making. The LGCC used 2-3 communal agents per pond to manage water, clean sludge, weeds and distribution. It should be noted that a concreteization of the pond tower is planned and desired to simplify the maintenance of the ponds. At the moment the pond is not sufficient to meet the needs of all users. The pond is full at the end of the wet season in September and ends completely dry at the end of the dry season. The inhabitants are looking for funds to build another one but are facing difficulties related to access to land. Indeed, it is necessary that the owner of the land accepts or that the land belongs to the municipality. With regard to financing: the installation of this pond cost nearly 2000 euros and was covered by funds allocated by UNCDF (about 30%) and by the Cambodian authorities for the rest. The interview is carried out at the expense of the municipality through municipal agents.
Another investment in the region's leading sector of activity: rice growing
We also had the opportunity to meet another development carried out as part of this project. These are irrigation canals for rice production in a neighbouring commune, built in 2015. The two water sources, 165 m long and 5 m wide, are linked to the Mekong River system and a large lake. It aims to ensure irrigation even in the dry season, or even in the event of drought. As in the commune previously studied, farmers originally harvested once a year. With this new development, the farmers of this commune harvest 3 times a year on the rice plots. This increase in the number of harvests was also made possible by short-cycle seeds (3-4 months compared to 6 months for the old ones) purchased from IRRI (International Rice Research Institute) in 2013. The Department of Agriculture then selected the target farmers to demonstrate the usefulness of these new seeds and promote them. But they require chemical fertilizers and pesticides that these farmers did not use before. Today they earn more money by multiplying their harvests, despite the new use of expensive inputs for these varieties. A water management committee ensures the distribution of water from the canals to avoid conflicts, and users manage the valves themselves to access the pumps used to compensate for the slight difference in level between the embankment and some raised plots. The cost of financing these irrigation canals amounts to about 20,000 euros and is the result of co-financing between funds allocated by UNCDF from Swedish funds (30%) and Cambodian government funds.
Conclusion: This vast programme set up by the Cambodian administration in collaboration with the United Nations Capital Development Fund has made it possible to carry out a number of development actions taken over by selected local governments. The populations of the selected districts and municipalities face a series of challenges related to environmental conditions and natural hazards. The actions we have studied, related to the consequences of climate change, try to overcome historical difficulties in water management, especially during the dry season. The inhabitants seem satisfied with these structures, and water management does not pose any problems a priori. The ponds have been undersized because some of the needs of the populations seem not yet to be met.
Opinion: The consideration of climate change seems to have emerged during the implementation of this project, held by the United Nations Development Fund. The implementation was based on Cambodian administrative verticality, with decisions taken by the provincial government on communal actions using layers of administrative agents, which seems to work to some extent. The solutions put in place should be studied separately, although they are intended to be complementary at the territorial level. The introduction of short-cycle varieties with high yield potential in a region so sensitive to droughts, with high irrigation and chemical inputs seems to be an unsustainable solution, and locks farmers into problematic economic and climatic dependencies. As for ponds, this palliative solution seems to be interesting because it is mainly used for domestic supply. This initiative would need to be studied more closely to identify the real impacts as part of sustainable adaptation to climate change. Finally, the road infrastructure used to circulate in the event of flooding, for example, is not really linked to climate change in the reflection on its implementation, and this seems to have been an argument for development aid.