Merging Local Development with Local Adaptation

Cambodia is extremely vulnerable to climate change. Unforgiving droughts and intense monsoons have hit its agricultural communities hard. District government employees are also aware that crop yields are plummeting.

Nevertheless, over the previous year Southern Voices and DanChurchAid partner, the NGO Forum of Cambodia (NGOF), has been changing that – one commune development plan at a time. Now, plans throughout Cambodia show the promising signs of climate adaptation, protecting local communities from the excesses of climate shocks and sensitizing government employees on the relationship between adaptation and development.

Communication and Capacity-building
NGOF found their solution using a workshop approach, supported by international actors Plan International and the UNDP as well as NCDD-S.

It focused on ‘training of the trainer’ and capacity-building workshops with government employees and local members.

This allowed NGOF to implement workshops focused on the Joint Principles for Adaptation (JPA), climate change and vulnerability assessments. In addition to targeting local government, NGOF also increased engagement with local communities. NGOF translated the JPA in Khmer, to increase the understanding and engagement of locals in the development process.

This shift built the communication between government employees and local communities, representing an important development in the local adaptation process. “The JPA really strengthened cooperation between local governments and communities”.

A shining example of this shift has been the empowerment of Kampuchea Women’s Welfare Action (KWWA) – a local member of NGOF. Prior to NGOF’s support, KWWA struggled with a lack of resources and low technical support to mainstream climate change in their community’s local development plan.

After introducing members to the JPA and vulnerability assessments, KWWA were able to develop a relationship with the commune government and provide technical expertise for their new development plan.

This is indicative of how district governments have been armed with approaches to reduce climate impacts, allowing NGOF and NECA members to advise on development initiatives.

“We have been able to widen the scope of what development planners consider, before they were just focused on typical elements like infrastructure but not how climate threats like floods or droughts are related”, he detailed.

Using over 30 local partners, NGOF were able to support adaptation projects throughout Cambodia – and are already seeing results.

“We’ve also set-up local irrigation projects and early-warning systems in local districts”, explained Nop Polin. This can help to stave off drought in numerous communities, which in-turn sustains commune development.

“Another focus has been to direct communes towards human development”, he added. This can be regarding activities as simple as awareness-raising. Early improvements have been made in training on sanitation using the WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) model, which although small, makes a sizable difference to quality of life in many districts.

Thus, by basing capacity-building at the local level, NGOF have found an effective method to integrate adaptation into previously neglected policy areas. A promising sign of this continuing is the UNDP’s recent commitment of new finances allowing NGOF to continue capacity-building work.