A project to empower women in Cambodia is helping vulnerable communities adapt to the climate crisis
To some it may seem idyllic to live with the gentle rhythm of the current. But for the people of the floating villages of Pursat, Cambodia, life on the Tonlé Sap River can be difficult. Employment opportunities that exist on land are often unavailable to water dwellers, and one that is, fishing, is threatened by the climate crisis.
“There are long and frequent storms that prevent us from going out fishing,” explains Ol Pheap, 41, a fisherwoman from the village of Kompong Knie. “We can only fish around one or two kilos and sometimes we don’t catch any fish. Because there is so much wind, our team is moving away and it is very difficult to bring it back home. “
The dry seasons are equally challenging. “[They] they last seven months, which is unusual, ”said Pheap. “When there is a dry season like that, the water recedes so much that we have to move our equipment and boats. [far away]. And it takes about three or four hours to do that. “
Identified as one of the countries most at risk from the climate emergency, Cambodia also ranks 103rd in the ranking Global Gender Gap Index 2021 from the World Economic Forum. Given the the climate crisis disproportionately affects women, the charity ActionAid decided to launch a campaign to help Cambodian women adapt.
The bell, She is the answer, supports communities to become more resilient by empowering women to adopt climate-friendly livelihoods. The work is backed by research that has shown that female empowerment is one of the most effective solutions available to us to tackle global warming.
One of ActionAid’s projects is in the town of Oakol, where the charity helped establish a floating garden for locals to harvest vegetables, such as cabbage and peppers. The products are distributed among the community and the leftover vegetables are sold to the people of the neighboring villages. Ol Pheap is one of the women who has been trained to garden. Keng, 34 years old, other.
“People used to believe that you couldn’t grow vegetables in this town,” says Keng. Image: ActionAid
“People used to believe that you couldn’t grow vegetables or gardens in this town because it’s in the water,” explains Keng, who said the garden generates around 10,000 to 15,000 Cambodian riels per day (about £ 1.78 to £ 2.68). This, he adds, compares favorably with fishing.
“There are not many challenges with the floating garden; the main problem is that the rats sometimes come and destroy it, ”he says.
According to Keng, the floating garden has increased the consumption of vegetables in the village and improved the health of the community. Receiving training and support from ActionAid, she adds, helped her become more sufficient.
“I feel like I am no longer a woman who only knows how to do one thing,” she says. “I know how to take advantage of opportunities and now I can share those life skills with other people.”
The floating garden has increased the consumption of vegetables locally. Image: ActionAid
Keng is part of the burgeoning Women Champions network, helping to give Cambodian women a voice when making vital decisions at the community and government levels. The project is also run by ActionAid.
“Our Women Champions program provides Cambodian women with the training, skills and confidence they need to play a decisive role in planning for the future of their communities and our country,” said Samphy Eng of the charity.
ActionAid has trained around 50 women across the country, equipping them with climate science knowledge and helping them play an active role in decision-making. In addition to planting mangroves to help protect villages from storms, women promote sustainable agricultural methods and create floating schools where future generations are taught about climate resilience.
“In countless ways, big and small, they are shaping the world in good directions, which is wonderful to see,” said Eng.
Lead image: ActionAid
This article is published in partnership with ActionAid to help raise awareness of their new campaign, She is the answer, which empowers Cambodian women to have a voice in the face of the climate emergency.