Water for households and livelihoods

Water for households and livelihoods

Tuol Kokir, Koh Kong Province, Cambodia

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Access to water in the dry season is a concern in remote rural parts of Cambodia. Water is needed for households and livestock, and as a basis for reliable resource-based incomes. The need is now getting more urgent due to erratic rainfalls caused by climate change.

Traditional paddy cultivation systems and rural livelihoods in Cambodia have developed since ancient times in a context of abundant access to water. Today, however, the water availability is affected by more frequent erratic rainfalls, including drought, related to climate change. Also, there is a general expectation of improved monetary incomes above the subsidence levels of the recent past. There is a clear need to generate more value within a finite water availability. Options include (a) improved access to water; (b) more efficient water utilization, including new cultivation practices; and (c) (preferably), a combination (where this is practical).


The 'Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptation Programme for Climate Change within the Coastal Zone of Cambodia Considering Livelihoods Improvement and Ecosystems' (VAAP) was approved in 2011 by GEF under the LDCF. The programme is being implemented by UNEP and is executed by Ministry of Environment in close cooperation with technical working groups that have been established under the governor in each of the coastal provinces. Among the intended outcomes are improved livelihoods, and reduced vulnerability of productive systems.

Activities have included a comprehensive assessment of climate change vulnerability of all communes in Cambodia's coastal provinces. Tuol Kokir Commune in Koh Kong Province was rated as 'extremely vulnerable', with high ratings in the categories of households and livelihoods. Adaptation measures have been identified accordingly, with the expansion of a small lake as an immediate priority.


The activity was implemented in 2013-14 in a close collaboration with the commune council. Today, with some 108,000 m3 of active storage, the expanded lake serves all 250 households in the community (as compared to 40 households before the expansion). The excavated soils were used for improvements of nearby roads.

Mr. Khoem Sanith, the commune chief, was born in this commune. He notes that the initiative has provided significant benefits to most of villagers in the commune. Another life-long resident, Mr. Sin Ly, village chief, elaborates that water for cultivation and livestock breeding is not an issue at all in the wet season, but water is scarce every year in the dry season. A severe 2-months drought was experienced in March and April 2014, but, due to the improved storage, water remained available for household utilization, and his plants, chicken and piglets could survive. Furthermore, the villagers save money for buying water from vendors (at a cost of around 0.5 USD per 30 l, or more for remote locations). Now, Mr. Sin and other farmers plan to buy household tanks and a mini-truck for collecting water from the pond.

The initiative interacts with parallel efforts to promote supplementary small-scale dry season cultivation of crops that require much less water than rice.

A key to success was the commitment and active participation by the commune council and the local residents.