Building Resilience Against Natural Disasters in North-East Cambodia

Cambodia is one of the most disaster-prone countries in Southeast Asia – vulnerable to many types of hazards such as floods, droughts and insect infestations. These affect crops, destroy homes and force villagers to move to safer ground.

To strengthen Cambodia's ability to cope with the consequences of climate change, IOM's project, Building Resilience to Natural Hazards in North-East Cambodia, was implemented in 2010.

Implemented in 43 villages in three provinces – Ratanakiri, Mondulkiri and Stung Treng – the project targets areas populated by mostly ethnic minorities and indigenous groups who rely on the land for survival.

NCDM facilitating the 1st Community Based DRR Training for Provincial and District Committees for Disaster Management. © IOM 2010

Isolated Cambodian Villages at Risk

In the isolated province of Mondulkiri in northeastern Cambodia, villagers used to watch the roosters carefully. When they began to perch their nests on higher ground, it meant a flood was coming. Their eyes were also glued to the Trech (a type of ant) who they believed warned of drought by nesting along the stream of a river.

The lack of early warning systems in isolated villages meant that many villages had to rely on traditional methods to predict natural disasters. However, with changes in climate, as well as an increase in the frequency and severity of disasters, these practices may no longer be as effective as they once were. It also means many communities face annual food shortages and threats to their wellbeing and health.

For example, over 90 per cent of villages in Mondulkiri are at medium to high risk of seasonal and flash floods ever year. In addition, they are also affected by floods caused by the operation of a hydropower dam in Sre Pok River in Vietnam. As a result of severe flooding, villages could no longer plant along banks of streams, or had to move farther from their farms.

Their isolation also meant that it could take a long time for villages to receive assistance when struck by disaster. While many villagers move to be safe from natural disasters, they soon realised that they couldn't stop natural disasters from happening no matter where they moved and decided they would have to prepare to themselves to face them.

"The creation of the Village Disaster Management Team is a very important task for the community, as it helps them to develop planning measures and integrate them into the Commune Development Plans. It will help the Commune Council in making plans and in integrating these. In addition, disseminate information so that people will be aware of the disaster risks they face, enabling them to find ways of reducing and avoiding these risks."

–Sreng Sopheap, IOM Field Coordinator

New Knowledge Empowers Vulnerable Communities

IOM's project promoted a culture of disaster preparedness and equipped villages and authorities from the national to the local level with the knowledge, equipment and skills to face a number of natural disasters.

Among the most important aspects of the project was the creation and training of Village Disaster Management Teams to prevent and reduce the risks posed by natural disasters and coordinate with local authorities about their needs.

In addition, a 12 minute video entitled "Rising above Natural Disasters" was produced and shown in Ratanakiri and Mondulkiri, while a comprehensive study Stung Treng province's vulnerability and capacity to face natural disasters was conducted.

Key Objectives

  • Enable local communities, actors and institutions to better prepare for, mitigate and respond to natural disasters
  • Increase community self-reliance in managing disaster risk through the promotion of Village Disaster Management Teams
  • Enhance community-based disaster preparedness and climate change adaptation through awareness raising and skills building
  • Promote a culture of preparedness through dialogue on Disaster Risk Reduction strategies between government and non-government actors

Principal Activities

  • Training workshops for Communes and Provincial Committees for Disaster Management in Disaster Risk Reduction
  • Design and dissemination of user-friendly IEC materials among key DRR players
  • Creation of village disaster management teams
  • Awareness raising on disaster risk through community media
  • Community risk assessment in Stung Treng province
District officials discussing the result of their field exercise during the DRR Training, Ratanakiri Province. © IOM 2010

Beneficiaries

  • 1,579 project beneficiaries in 43 villages

Concrete Benefits

  • Disaster preparedness and management strategies integrated in commune and provincial development plans
  • Roles and responsibilities of disaster management committees clarified
  • Creation of 178 Village Disaster Management Teams (VDMT) and development of field strategies for community-based disaster management
  • Developed field strategy for community-based disaster management
  • Synergies between government and non-governmental actors established and strengthened through dialogue, awareness raising and training
  • IEC materials were developed and disseminated to target national and local audiences: 600 copies of drought and flood preparedness posters and primers
  • Cross border dialogue between Cambodian and Viet Namese authorities in emergency preparedness and response fostered
  • Publication of Mapping Vulnerability to Natural Hazards in Stung Treng in English and Khmer versions
Cambodia National Mekong Committee Deputy Secretary General presenting the key issues on transboundary water management. © IOM 2010
Gialai Provincial Official in Viet Nam attending the event and conveying his interest to work with bordering provinces in North-East Management on emergency response and early warning on hydro-power dam release. © IOM 2010