Vichika, 27, lives in Norng Hai Village in Ratanak Kiri, a remote province that borders with Laos and Vietnam in the far north-east of Cambodia. She is Tampoun, an ethnic minority whose culture and language differs from Khmer, the majority population in Cambodia. Remoteness and cultural and linguistic barriers faced by ethnic minorities hinder their access to social services, such as education and healthcare, and opportunity to benefit from economic development taking place in urban parts of the country.
Because of this situation, ethnic minority farmers in the area—like Vichika—do not have access to accurate weather forecasts or modern technology to assist them to respond to changing weather conditions from climate change, such as floods and droughts which have become more frequent in Cambodia in recent years.
In the past, when climatic conditions were more moderate and predictable, Vichika applied her traditional knowledge on agriculture and ecosystems to grow crops. However, this approach is less effective in the current context, where environmental degradation and volative weather conditions have created new challenges and risks. For this reason, Vichika’s crops have been ruined many times in the past, making it difficult for the young mother to provide for her two sons, 7 and 10. This situation is even more challenging because money from the sale of these crops is the family’s only source of income, as Vichika’s husband died some years ago.
In October 2016, Vichika joined the ACIS project to gain knowledge on how she can adapt her current farming practices to overcome emerging challenges, such as how to protect crops from pests and use weather forecasts to plan for the upcoming season. “Through the project, I now know what crops to plant depending on the weather—for example, if there is going to be lots of rain I will plant cassava, but if there isn’t then I will use a different crop that grows better in dry conditions,” says Vichika. This statement highlights the value of what she has learnt from the ACIS project, which has enabled her to refine her farming techniques to respond to unfamiliar conditions and increase the yield of her investment.
Vichika is a Champion Farmer, a role assigned to members of the ACIS project who are responsible for gathering other farmers in their community together and passing on what they have learnt from the project. This process multiplies the positive impact of training an individual farmer, enabling whole communities to become more empowered and resilient against the effects of climate change. “I am happy to share my new knowledge with other farmers in my village; to help people learn and improve the community is important,” says Vichika.
By joining the ACIS project, Vichika has developed her farming techniques which have increased the yield and resilience of her crops. This change will likely lead to a more consistent stream of income for her family and reduced risk of financial shock, which they often experienced in the past due to damaged crops from pests or extreme weather. The impact of Vichika’s participation in the ACIS project extends beyond her family, however; her whole community is benefiting from the knowledge she is passing onto them as a Champion Farmer.
These activities are part of the Enhancing adaptive capacity of women and ethnic minority smallholder farmers through improved Agro-Climate Information Systems in South-East Asia, which is funded by the Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security and Fondation Ensemble.