Cambodian fish farmers save ponds and fish through climate change adaptation techniques

Report
from US Agency for International Development
Published on 16 Nov 2012 View Original

In Cambodia, Feed the Future works with fish farmers to improve their aquaculture techniques for better harvests.

When record seasonal floods hit Cambodia’s Battambang Province in late 2011, fish farmer Khel Khem feared the worst. Water levels reached 2.5 meters—higher than Khem’s head—and enough, she worried, to wash out her recently stocked pond, where she breeds fish to generate income.

But with the help of climate change adaptation techniques learned under Cambodia’s flagship Feed the Future project, Khem was able to save her pond. Since then, she’s done more than merely survive; she has thrived. As of February 2012, her fish weighed an average of 0.7 kilograms, more than four times the 0.15 kilograms of years past. The bigger fish will lead to higher profits at the local market, allowing Khem to expand her business and improve her family’s living standard.

The key to Khem’s success was her hard work and timely application of aquaculture techniques she learned from Feed the Future project implementers. When water levels started rising in late September of 2011, aquaculture technicians were there to support her, sometimes even paddling out to Khem’s land in a canoe.

The technicians demonstrated how to install a three-meter-tall netting fence to keep Khem’s fish from escaping her pond and to keep unwanted predator fish from entering and devouring her stocks. The Feed the Future team also advised Khem on how to prevent damage to the fence from floating debris and from fresh-water crabs, which could cut holes in it.

Although she won’t know exactly how many fish survived until harvest time, Khem estimates the number at nearly half (2,000 out of 5,000 fish) based on a feeding calculation method she learned from Feed the Future—a far better outcome than her expectation of going empty-handed this harvest season.

"I feel confident that I can handle future floods," Khem says. She is eager to share the techniques she learned with her neighbors, whose ponds were completely destroyed. "I want my neighbors to be able to survive in the future, too."

Managed by USAID under the Feed the Future and Global Climate Change initiatives, this flagship project in Cambodia is improving nutrition, income, and resilience for 70,000 rural, smallholder Cambodian households, developing agricultural solutions to address poor productivity, post-harvest losses, food safety, lack of market access, environmental degradation, and the effects of climate change on vulnerable populations.

Since the program began in 2010, it has better equipped 20,000 farmers to adapt to extreme weather events such as droughts and floods and has generated income, food and employment for 8,500 households.