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Rural Cambodians face high risk from climate change

Climate change has been posing a severe threat to human development gains and is a source of increasing vulnerability for the poor and near poor in Cambodia, according to an United Nations Development Program-Cambodia (UNDP) report launched here on Tuesday.

The report, titled "Building Resilience: The Future of Rural Livelihoods in the Face of Climate Change," was studied by the UNDP Cambodia, the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Economy and Finance.

It is the first comprehensive study of its kind in Cambodia. The report pinpointed human development challenges facing the country's rural populations as they strive to improve their livelihoods while dealing with the effects of climate change.

Speaking during the launch of the report, Keat Chhon, Minister of Economy and Finance, said although it was already on the national development agenda of the government of Cambodia, climate change issue now must be thoroughly incorporated into strategic policies and action plans in all sectors at national and sub- national levels to build future resilience.

"The priority should be on developing human resources and institutions, research, application of appropriate technology, and financial resource aimed at strengthening the capacity to effectively respond to the climate change," he said. "This needs to be done particularly in the sectors that are the backbone of national economy such as agriculture, water resources, fisheries, forestry, energy and physical infrastructure."

Although climate change is often considered an environmental issue, its effects will take a toll on human development gains. Shorter and more intense rainy seasons combined with longer and dry seasons are expected to significantly alter the country's agricultural landscape, said the report, adding that predicted rises in temperature could have devastating effects on the rice crops on which many rural livelihoods rely.

Approximately 80 percent of the country's 14.3 million people are farmers, relying mainly on rice crops.

Dealing with climate change marks a new paradigm for development, and the report's recommendations emphasised the need to address the structural dimensions of poverty and vulnerability rather than solely focusing on climate change adaptation.

The report also argued for a well coordinated effort to build climate resilience among the rural population, particularly in four key areas: water resources, agriculture, protecting forests and fisheries.

Also speaking at the launch, Mok Mareth, Minister of Environment, said the report and its recommendations "have the potential to provide long-term benefits to contribute to reducing poverty and ensuring sustainable and equitable development under climate change conditions."

He added that participation by all actors government agencies, non-governmental organizations and the private sector, with the support of development partners "can ensure the success of climate change response in Cambodia."

Source:Xinhua
Date:Aug 31,2011