The proposed project is based on priority interventions outlined in the Cambodian NAPA and focuses on climate change-resilient agricultural water management. The impacts of climate change on Cambodian agriculture, particularly on rice cultivation, are predicted to adversely affect food production and –security in rural areas. At present, there is emerging evidence that agriculture based livelihoods and overall food security in Cambodia are affected by increased frequency and severity of floods, dry spells and drought events. Various climate models depict different trends in annual precipitation, with some predicting substantial increases in total precipitation (i.e. more intensive rainfall events following after longer dry spells), and some predicting a rise, followed by a fall. Such dynamic climate trends do not find appropriate reflection in the government's planning and decision-making processes, which is mainly due to the fact that climate change challenges in Cambodia are predominantly addressed through post-disaster relief operations after extreme weather events.
A major constraint in moving from a focus on post-disaster relief management to anticipatory agricultural and water resources planning is the limited institutional and individual capacity in both government agencies and community organizations to understand potential climate change impacts and to internalize a perspective of longer-term resilience and preparedness into sectoral policy and development planning processes. Although Cambodia is currently implementing a number of programmes and projects that strengthen capacity for development planning in general terms, these activities aim to strengthen the governance system under current climatic conditions and do not analyze long-term resilience and/or vulnerability of these development interventions with regards to changing environmental and climatic conditions.
This is especially critical in the water resources and agriculture sector, where the majority of donor-supported projects focus on the rehabilitation of reservoirs and irrigation channels and on the extension of irrigation to larger areas. Although many of these projects take an integrated approach, they largely ignore information provided by climate change models and scenarios, which in turn put the outputs of these projects at risk. Reservoirs and irrigation channels designed for current rainfall patterns are e.g. not designed to handle predicted larger peak flows, which is likely to result in physical damage to infrastructure and reduction of the overall areas under irrigation. Other projects aim at an improvement of agricultural productivity, for example, through promoting the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) in many areas. While productivity under current climatic conditions can be dramatically improved, specific elements of the SRI system may not be appropriate under changed climatic conditions, and indeed some of the innovations being proposed under SRI may compromise long-term crop yields. The planting of rice seedlings at wider spacing may e.g. increase vulnerability to soil erosion, especially if more intense rainfall events are experienced earlier in the rainy season.
The project will cover the additional activities required to ensure that projects and programmes aimed at capacity building of relevant government institutions in Cambodia take future climate change impacts into account. Part of the requested LDCF funding will be used to increase the adaptive capacity of key national and sub-national institutions, especially provincial and district departments of agriculture and water resources and meteorology, commune councils, and farmer water-use committees, and ensure that they are able to efficiently design, monitor and manage climate-resilient water resource management and rural development projects. The project will develop expertise of district agricultural extension teams in the management of climate risks with respect to water management, and train Commune Councils and Planning and Budgeting Committees (PBCs) in two target districts in climate risk management approaches. In addition, key stakeholders at the community level (including religious leaders and indigenous elders) in both districts will be involved and actively enabled to support community-based adaptation planning processes.
The project will demonstrate climate-resilient rainwater harvesting techniques at both the household and village level. By diversifying the sources of water used for different purposes (agriculture, sanitation and consumption), overall access to water resources in changing climatic conditions will be improved, as will conditons for human health. Other demonstrations of community-based adaptation options will address climate-risk resilient conservation and management of fish stocks, adapting the technical elements of SRI, introducing modifications such as inter-cropping and mutliple variety cultivation to reduce the potential for soil erosion, and promoting the maintenance of higher levels of genetic diversity within crops so as to maintain the capacity to adapt to future climatic conditions through participatory breeding. The project will replicate experiences from the target districts in other parts of the country and incorporate a significant learning component in its project design, using monitoring and evaluation good practices. Rigorous evaluation will enable the project proponents and UNDP to measure progress in this project and learn how to strengthen its adaptation portfolio in the agricultural sector. The UNDP's Adaptation Learning Mechanism (ALM) will facilitate this learning process.
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