Country water actions are stories that showcase water reforms undertaken by individuals,communities, organizations, and governments in Asia-Pacific countries and elsewhere.
Country Water ActionsCambodia: Irrigation Infrastructures for Improving Agricultural Production
What do Cambodia's northwestern provinces of Pursat,Battambang, Banteay Meanchey, and Siem Reap have incommon? Two things — they are poor, and they are gettingout of poverty. The Northwest Irrigation Sector Project, withits appreciation of the role of policy and regulatoryframeworks, will ensure improved agricultural production inthe region.
IMPROVED IRRIGATION FOR POVERTY REDUCTION
The Northwest Irrigation Sector Project in Cambodia willreduce rural poverty by improving agricultural productionamong poorer farmers. The project, which began in 2003and expected to be completed by 2010, is divided between10-12 small to medium-scale subprojects in four provinces— Pursat, Battambang, Banteay Meanchey, and Siem Reap— where irrigation systems are being rehabilitated. Theseprovinces are the poorest and most isolated in the country.The farmers in these project areas will be organized intofarmer water user associations and trained on sustainableoperations and maintenance of the new irrigation schemes.The project will also train current agricultural extensionworkers and place a new group of irrigation extensionpersonnel to help the farmers improve rice production,diversify crops, and integrate livestock and fisheries. It willalso help establish rural credit to households.
WATER AND AGRICULTURE IN NORTHWESTCAMBODIA
Until 1998, Northwest Cambodia was controlled by the KhmerRouge, cutting it off from the aid and development work thatwas getting underway in other parts of the country.Cambodia remains one of the least developed countries inAsia, with 36% of the population in poverty, but itsnorthwest provinces face a different hardship. They areamong the poorest, with poverty exceeding 60% in someplaces. Even though Cambodia is actually considered a water-wealthy country, its fortunate location on the Mekong River'slower basin does not exempt the country from a number of water problems that cut to the heart of people's strugglewith poverty. The northwest is particularly sensitive toinconsistent rainfall, lengthy dry seasons, and sporadic spellsof drought, even during the wet season — all wreaking havocon the region's largely rural population, which is naturallydependent on agricultural livelihoods.Water problems in the northwest provinces mean lower cropyields and inadequate water supplies to meet daily householdneeds. Only 1.25% of the rural population has access to safedrinking water and sanitation. Food security is also aproblem, with scarcities lasting more than 6 months at times.Water, specifically for irrigation, has been identified as a wayout of poverty for entire communities.
WORKING WITH POLICY AND INVESTMENTSTRATEGIES
The project has a holistic, integrative design composed of these three components:strengthening government institutionsdeveloping irrigation infrastructure and farmer groupsto manage themproviding irrigation farmers with better agriculturalsupport services to maximize the benefits of the newirrigation systemsThese components collectively reflect an important, provenlogic in rural and agricultural development — that improvingyields on a sustainable basis to reduce rural poverty requiresmore than an increase in irrigated land and water supplies.National decision makers and policy work must be involved.