SIEM RIEP, CAMBODIA (4 October 2017)—As the Government of Cambodia redoubles efforts to protect the country against weather extremes wrought by climate change, a meeting of experts from across the world—in advance of the climate talks in Bonn—offered new evidence that empowering communities with a mix of technology and information tailored specifically to the local threats they face can help them to survive, recover from and thrive despite extreme weather disasters.
The event, which brought together climate change officials, experts and practitioners from Cambodia, Zambia, and other countries from Southeast Asia who face similar climate challenges, was organized by the Cambodian government with support from the Asian Development Bank and the Climate Investment Funds (CIF), a US$8.3 billion fund providing developing and middle-income countries with the resources they need to protect themselves against the effects of climate change and reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions.
"With flooding in river basins and drought in the highlands, Cambodia is, worldwide, one of the nations most vulnerable to climate change," said Mafalda Duarte, the head of CIF. "All too often, the poorest suffer most when their homes, rice fields, roads and hospitals are inundated with water for months at a time, or when their crops shrivel and die from water shortages. These disasters are a burden for rural communities—as well as the national economy. But what’s encouraging to see is that, if supported in the right way, these same communities can protect themselves against the effects of climate change."
With some 84% of the population relying on agriculture, Cambodia is particularly sensitive to changes in weather patterns and extreme weather, with most farmers dependent on the annual flooding and recession of the Tonle Sap Great Lake for water resources. Flooding or droughts can throw this resource off balance, destroying crops and leaving farmers without crops. In 2016, the Global Nature Fund called Tonle Sap the world’s most threatened lake.
Across the country, rural infrastructure, including roads, water supply and sanitation, also need protection against climate change. Experts from across the Mekong region attended the event to report on local, community level approaches to managing the disasters and risk that come with climate change. In Cambodia, these include:
The agriculture project in the Koh Krong and Mondulkiri provinces will protect 4,300 farming families and their crops from a deluge of sea or river water. In Koh Krong, flood protection dykes will shield rice fields from the ocean water; in Mondulkiri, rainwater harvesting systems, small-scale irrigation facilities and water conservation technologies will help farmers to maximize limited water resources.
"The government of Cambodia is firmly committed to helping the country’s farmers build up their climate resilience so that they can quickly adapt when flooding or drought hits," said H.E. Veng Sakhon, Minister, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in Cambodia . "We can’t control the weather, but we can give these communities the tools they need—from early warning systems to weather insurance—to plan against disasters and risk brought on by climate change."
To support these communities, the government is tapping into US$91 million in grants and near-zero interest credits from the CIF’s Pilot Program for Climate Resilience (PPCR), which supports climate resilience in developing countries. In addition to helping Cambodia climate-proof its water management systems, agriculture, and rural and urban infrastructure, it is also providing financing to enhance the capacity of Cambodia’s institutions to incorporate climate resilience into their development plans.
The CIF supports similar efforts in Zambia. Like Cambodia, most of the population of the land-locked country in southern Africa is highly vulnerable to climate change and is dependent on agriculture. Furthermore, infrastructure is limited; only 14.8 % of the country’s roads are paved.
One project funded by the CIF in Zambia is designed to help poor, rural farmers—including women and youth—in some 800,000 communities across the Kafue river basin adapt to climate change. The project will develop roads designed to withstand floods and extreme weather so that they’re accessible all year long and can help local communities to ensure that they’re able to sell their crops at local markets. Launched in 2013, the five-year project will cost US$38 million and impact nine districts of the Kafue basin.
"Droughts, floods and high temperatures are a major drain to our economy and a strain on our people," said Dr. Auxilia Ponga, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of National Development Planning of Zambia. "We have been so surprised to learn from our visit to Cambodia that though our countries are thousands of miles apart from one another, the threat of climate change is strikingly similar. Fortunately, we are learning that local solutions can help us adapt to this global problem."
About Climate Investment Funds
The $8.3 billion Climate Investment Funds (CIF) is providing 72 developing and middle income countries with urgently needed resources to manage the challenges of climate change and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
Since 2008, the CIF has been leading efforts to empower transformations in the energy, climate resilience, transport and forestry sectors. CIF concessional financing offers flexibility to test new business models and approaches, build track records in unproven markets, and boost investor confidence to unlock additional finance from other sources, particularly the private sector and the multilateral development banks that implement CIF funding.
Total CIF pledges of $8.3 billion are expected to attract an additional $58 billion of co-financing for a portfolio of over 300 projects and counting.
The CIF is comprised of four programs