Cambodian agriculture: Adaptation to climate change impact

Cambodian agriculture: Adaptation to climate change impact

Discussion paper with overview of Cambodian agriculture's adaptation to climate change.

Cambodia has been identified as one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change. This International Food and Policy Institute discussion paper utilises crop models and village surveys to provide an overview of Cambodian agriculture's adaptation to climate change impacts. Modelling software evaluated yields for eight crops to a scale of 10km-squares, with potential gains from adjusted fertiliser use examined. The survey consisted of 45 communes using focus group discussions, with question asked regarding fertiliser, irrigation, seeds, tillage, and responses to climatic disasters.

From the results, five broad strategic approaches are recommended in the report: no-regret strategies that will yield benefits even in the absence of climate change; reversible and flexible strategies; low-cost vulnerability reduction strategies; reducing decision-making time horizons, e.g. phasing in shorter-term investments; and enhancing synergies by integrating different goals among strategies.

Policy recommendations provided include:

  • Continue to research, develop, and extend the improvement of crops better suited to future climates, requiring substantial budget increases for the Cambodian Agricultural Research and Development Institute and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry.
  • Extension Institutions can help farmer adapt in a number of ways, including education and training; disseminating new heat- and drought-tolerant crops; and forging international links, amongst others.
  • Adjusting planting dates to the changing climatic realities can lesson impacts of climate change on yields.
  • Chemical fertilisers, particularly nitrogen for many crops, can compensate the loss of yields through climate change. Concerns about externalities associated with chemical fertilisers suggests that non-chemical fertiliser also be maximally increased.
  • It is unclear whether present mitigation actions regarding crop loss due to floods and droughts are best suited for the changing climate risks, and requires further evaluation. Irrigation has proven to be highly successful in this regard, whilst greatly improving productivity; rice production in Cambodia roughly doubled between 2000 and 2010, attributed to good leadership and a range of successful policy decisions.
  • A broader, more targeted social protection program is required to deal with increased climatic risk, requiring a systematic effort to reduce farmer poverty, and ensure their ability to produce in the following growing season.
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