Being essentially an agrarian country, Cambodia is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The main staple food is rice – and rain-fed lowland rice production accounts for more than 80% of the total rice area – but flooding, drought, and pests and disease are increasingly common due to changes in the climate, thus affecting crop yields. In the last five years, rice production loss can occurred mainly due to the occurrence of floods (70%), drought (20%) and pests and disease (10%). This has a great impact on the health of the poor and marginalised groups, most of which are farmers. Their lack of resources reduces their ability to adapt.
In 2008, CamFAD (the Cambodia Farmers’ Association Federation for Agricultural Development) started an initiative to help adapt the sector to climate change impacts. The organisation formulated a new sustainable farming practice called ‘System of Rice Intensification’ (SRI) which helps smallholder farmers increase their yields by following the principle of ‘transplanting young seedlings singly and widely spaced’, a technique that has the advantage of requiring less seeds and minimum irrigation.
CamFAD set up training workshops to promote this practice to farmers that, through a ‘learning-by-doing’ approach, allowed them to witness for themselves the benefits of the practice. Through farmer-to-farmer training, the SRI practice led to a widespread implementation of the new system, which has optimized rice production for smallholder farmers. Today, more than 17,000 farmers in Cambodia are using elements of SRI in their farming.