On the edge of a forest, drought takes root

CWS Cambodia | September 24, 2015

CWS is supporting microloans and training for fish, produce and mushroom farming in Chheu Teal Korng village. Photo: Annie Griffiths / Ripple Effect Images

CWS is supporting microloans and training for fish, produce and mushroom farming in Chheu Teal Korng village. Photo: Annie Griffiths / Ripple Effect Images

Chheu Teal Korng is the northernmost village in Cambodia. It sits in the shadows of the Dangrek mountain chain, which forms the border between Cambodia and Thailand. Fewer than 500 families live here, with each having about only half a hectare to grow food. Growing vegetables and rice on small plots is the way most families earn a living, in addition to gathering mushrooms and other materials of use in the nearby forests.

The families in Chheu Teal Korng have noticed a change. Normally, rain would start in late April and continue into May and June. In July, people would have already started planting rice and vegetables. However, this year’s long drought is the worst the people here have seen in 10 years. It affects nearly all aspects of daily life: health, water and sanitation, their farm work and food security.

Most people here don’t have a well, so they collect water from a stream located 3 kilometers away in the edge of the village. The drought, however, makes the stream go dry more often, and it has become more polluted. In turn, the families here now only use water for cooking and drinking, exposing the villagers to the risks of poor sanitation and hygiene. Even the few people who have wells now have problems with them running dry. Those who can afford it are resorting to buying water from vendors in trucks.

CWS staff have been working with the people of Chheu Teal Korng to help find sustainable solutions to this year’s drought, in case others come along as the climate changes. We have helped farmers here to learn drought-resilient techniques, including providing drought-resilient seeds and other materials.

The drought has destroyed any hope of harvesting a crop this year, and may prevent planting new crops in the future. The delay in planting crops affects what can be harvested and what can be sold, putting many here at risk of entering a cycle of poverty that may be hard to break.


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