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By Sok Lak
The Council for Agricultural and Rural Development in collaboration with CARITAS Cambodia and other organizations such as Oxfam, NGO forum on Cambodia, CRS, CEDAC, Srer Khmer, PADEK has organized the Second National Farmers Forum on Agriculture and Climate Change “ Together help farmers adapt to climate change” on April 27-28 in Phnom Penh. More than 400 participants including over 100 small-scale farmers from all regions of Cambodia join the 2nd National Farmer Forum to talk about how to adapt to climate change.
Under the theme of “Together Help Small-scale Farmers Adapt to Climate Chance for Sustainable Livelihoods,” the forum aims to highlight the importance of increased investment in small-scale farmers. The main purpose of this forum is to create a platform for small scale farmers to address together the challenges, constraints and best practice for developing common adaptive strategies of small scale farmers in the country and to create a space of policy dialogue between small-scale farmers and decision markers for promoting farmers’ voice especially women farmer to influence policies markers and civil societies for addressing the negative impacts of climate change on their livelihoods.
H.E. Tao Seng Hour, Senior Minister and First Vice Chairman of Council for Agriculture and Rural Development said that while rich countries are focusing on the climate change mitigation, least developed countries like Cambodia see the real need to adapt to climate change. It has far-reaching consequences. As Cambodia is an agrarian country, the impacts are directly deepening the farm sector’s vulnerability as 80 percent of the population depends on it for their livelihood.
He continued that Cambodia has been identified as one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change in Southeast Asia. The country’s high vulnerability is based on a combination of factors including expected frequency of climate hazards such as droughts, floods as well as low adaptive capacity to climate change. In developing, agriculture-based countries, the threats could be double or more as it directly impacts people’s livelihood with its negative impacts on farm outputs that results in food insecurity.
Kim Rattana, Executive Director of Caritas Cambodia, said that this Forum is an excellent opportunity for government officials, development partners and civil society to see and hear directly from farmers – what the face of climate change looks like, what’s at stake, why it matters and why it requires our full attention and commitment. “We also hope the forum will not only provide a platform for small-scale men and women farmers to discuss their concerns, challenges and needs, but also create a space for policy dialogue between the farmers and policymakers to ensure the problems are addressed and become part of the national policy and private sector investment priorities.”
In Cambodia over 25% of the population faces food insecurity throughout the year. In addition any threat to agricultural productivity including drought, floods, and pest infestation puts additional stress on poor families through lost assets, income and shortages of food to eat. Climate change, if left unchecked, threatens to undermine Cambodia’s development and poverty alleviation efforts.
The Forum also pays special attention to women and climate change. Hunger and poverty affect everyone, women and men alike. But climate change will exacerbate the burden shouldered by women, and existing gender inequalities make women more vulnerable to its negative impacts.
Despite the challenges, women are often in the best position to craft solutions to hunger and act as agents of change. Their responsibilities in households, communities, and as stewards of natural resources position them well to develop strategies for adaptation to changing environmental realities and leading in developing new approaches to those realities.
Brian Lund, Regional Director of Oxfam, said that small-scale farmers, no matter if they are men, women, or members of indigenous communities, are the engine for growth and development. There are many opportunities to increase productivity of small-scale farmers in simple ways including sharing indigenous knowledge. “But for this to happen we need to concentrate on identifying best practices that farmers are doing and sharing these at a larger scale through extension services. This will need resources from all concerned including the government and development partners.
In recent years the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries has spent only 2% of annual expenditure on average and only 7.7 % of total aid disbursements to Cambodia went to agriculture.
Working together we can invest in agriculture and climate change adaptation, so that small-scale farmers, have the resources and capabilities they need to sustainably grow enough food for themselves, their families, their communities, and their nation.
Source: The Southeast Asia Weekly, May 1-7, 2011, Vol. 5, Issue 18, Page 10