Written by Mekong Institute

Cambodia is one nation that is most vulnerable to climate variability and change. The effects of climate change– if as severe as predicted – may erode efforts to alleviate poverty and food security of farmers. While climate change vulnerability assessments are considered as a principal vehicle for informing the need for adaptation, there have been few studies on climate change vulnerability at the community level in Cambodia, where these effects are often the hardest. This study aims to address this knowledge gap through a vulnerability assessment study at the grassroots level.   

The study seeks to assess vulnerability levels by examining this at the household level, their exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacities to respond to climate variability and change – particularly drought. Qualitative and quantitative data was used in the study, with information from both primary and secondary sources. One hundred and eighty villagers were involved in the household survey while six participants were involved in the in-depth interviews (Key Informant Interviews).

The study found that Peang Lvea Commune is vulnerable to climate change variability. Most households in Peang Lvea Commune (86.3 per cent) are vulnerable to climate variability – particularly drought –due to a low degree of exposure, medium sensitivity, and low adaptive capacity. They have a low exposure degree because they have never experienced any hazards besides of drought, and drought does not frequently occur in the commune, for example, households only maximally experienced drought for three years since 2005 to 2012. The community has a medium degree of sensitivity to climate variability. Households distribute most of the family labor to the agricultural sector, particular rice production, and source of income generation is also dependent on this climate sensitive sector. In addition, the community has a relatively low ability to adapt to environmental changes. Rural households have insufficient water for agricultural production and domestic consumption, one crop planting habit, low income, lack networking with neighbors and villagers in the commune.

Hence, given that there are five capacities for households to respond to drought hazards, only human capital is the medium while physical, natural, financial, and social capital, is low. Though the commune is not often exposed to climate related hazards like drought, the study indicates that the commune is vulnerable to climate variability due to its medium sensitivity and low adaptive capacity to climate variability.

While the exposure cannot be addressed in the short term, the way to reduce the vulnerability is to decrease sensitivity, and increase adaptive capacity. Improving local livelihoods through livelihood diversification would decrease sensitivity to climate variability. To increase adaptive capacity, adaptive strategies such as development and rehabilitation of reservoirs, irrigation system and water storage facilities, increase of water efficiency in agriculture and promotion of farmers’ saving groups or cooperatives is needed.

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