Drought, Drought Vulnerability and Adaptation Policy in Cambodia With Reference to the Farming Sector

Author: Nyda Chhinh

Chhinh, Nyda, 2016 Drought, Drought Vulnerability and Adaptation Policy in Cambodia With Reference to the Farming Sector, Flinders University, School of the Environment

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Farmers in Cambodia face two major natural hazards – floods and droughts. Millions of people are affected by these hazards on a regular basis and millions of hectares of rice paddies are regularly destroyed. Drought is less well understood than flooding, yet it accounted for about a fifth of total rice losses from 1997 to 2001. The importance of that figure is underlined by the fact that rice cultivation is the main economic activity in Cambodia, and that the government has prioritised agricultural development as a critical component in its poverty reduction and export commodity programs.

While measures have been employed to reduce flood and drought impacts, these two natural hazards are still serious issues and compromise rural household livelihoods as well as impacting on the national economy. Research on drought in Cambodia is still limited, and the methods used to conduct drought assessment are based on locality. The overall aim of the research is to improve our understanding of the impacts of drought on rice production in Cambodia and how these impacts of drought might be alleviated.

The Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) was evaluated and found to be the most appropriate index to identify drought and non–drought years in the existing records. Moreover droughts identified this way tied in with variations in the regional monsoonal climatology. The droughts were also statistically related to harvest losses. As there are causal linkages between drought (based on SPI values and climate science) and paddy rice damage, it is argued that SPI can be used to estimate the degree of severity of drought in Cambodia and to monitor droughts.

Economic analysis was designed to estimate the cost of droughts under business–as–usual and (re)building water infrastructure (i.e. irrigation systems) scenarios. Risk–based cost and benefit analysis was used and the expected costs were calculated for drought impacts. The primary argument is that the costs of the business–as–usual scenario are higher than those for building irrigation systems to secure water supplies for multiple cropping rice farming systems. The importance of multiple cropping is emphasised in the drought analysis and will be essential in helping farmers minimise the effects of drought on rice cultivation.

In terms of the policy implications, arguments are constructed based on the current threat of droughts in the context of climate change and agricultural development. The capacity of farmers to adapt to climate change and how to address those natural hazards like drought and climate are evaluated at the national policy level.

The thesis concludes that drought monitoring and mitigation measures must be taken from the local (commune) to national level.

Keywords: Cambodia, Kampong Speu, Drought, Drought Monitoring, Standardized Precipitation Index, Rice, ENSO, Nino 3.4, Cost and Benefit Analysis, Drought Risk Management

Subject: Environmental management thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2016
School: School of the Environment
Supervisor: Andrew Millington