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The Kingdom of Cambodia is located in mainland Southeast Asia between latitudes 10° and 15° N and longitudes 102° and 108° E. Cambodia covers an area of 181,035 km2 with a total population of 14.7 million people (CIA, 2011). Approximately 80 percent of this population lives in rural areas. The country is classified as being among the least developed in the world, with a GDP per capita of US $297 in 2002 (NIS, 2003).  The country’s economy has grown considerably over the past several years, with manufacturing, tourism and agriculture representing major economic sectors (USDS, 2010). Cambodia faces particularly acute challenges related to climate change including a need to build domestic capacity to address challenges related to health, agriculture and water resources. Administratively, the country is divided into 20 provinces and 4 municipalities with a total of 183 districts and 1,609 communes (NIS, 2004). The climate is characterized by a dry season from mid November to mid May and a rainy season from mid May to mid November. The annual average temperature is 27°C, and rises to a maximum of 38°C in April or May and falls to a minimum of 14°C in January or December.



Cambodia submitted a National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2007 (MOE, 2006). Its NAPA outlines Cambodia’s main areas of concerns related to water management and agriculture, as well as the development challenges that compound the country’s vulnerability to climate change. Cambodia reports an increasing severity of floods and droughts, which has led to crop failures and contributes substantially to poverty levels (MOE, 2006). In its NAPA, Cambodia specifically identified some of the primary needs and threats that it faces with respect to adaptation, as well as priority sectors targeted for action, including agriculture, water resources, coastal zones and human health. It also notes the need for flood protection enhancement through initiatives like riverbank improvements, particularly in areas of the Mekong watershed; and for food security protection to address floods and adverse weather events.
Through its Initial National Communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Cambodia identified adaptation needs in the priority sectors of agriculture, and forestry. With respect to agriculture, adaptation suggestions in the National Communication include: development of new high-yield crop varieties, improved crop management, warning systems for extreme weather events, and improvement of irrigation. Within the forestry sector, Cambodia suggests the creation of forest plantations on otherwise unproductive lands, conservation of protected areas, and improved forest resource management. The National Communication also discusses adaptation priorities within the area of human health, including education and disease control measures, as well as in coastal zones, including the development of a strategic response to sea level rise including studies of impacts, improved management and capacity building of local residents (MOE, 2002).
In addition there has been considerable research on the relationship between climate change and fisheries in Cambodia. Fisheries are a critical component of rural livelihoods and makes up as much as 80 per cent of the animal protein in a traditional diet. Hydrological variation in the Mekong Basin induced by climate change is predicted to amplify the emerging boom and bust cycle of fish catches, resulting in less stability for rural people. It is argued that fisheries and aquaculture can provide compensation for other adaptation problems such as low lying agricultural land and should be considered a key component of adaptation strategies in the country.


Cambodia’s Initial National Communication to the UNFCCC was published in October 2002 (MOE, 2002). It speaks about adaptation needs generally and does not list potential adaptation options. These priorities were more clearly articulated in its NAPA, in which poverty reduction and increased agricultural production are repeatedly mentioned as the central goals of Cambodia’s adaptation efforts. For Cambodia, adaptation policy and development policy are closely linked, and are at the forefront of the Rectangular Strategy for Growth, Employment, Equity and Efficiency. The Climate Change Department of the Ministry of Environment of Cambodia is in the process of finalizing Cambodia’s Second National Communication (SNC) to the UNFCCC. These efforts include preparation of National Adaptation and Mitigation Plans and identification of technology, institutional and policy gaps. The SNC work will culminate in the preparation of the Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan, which is expected to commence in 2011.
Cambodia has a number of national policies on poverty, the environment and development; however adaptation is not a prominent component of these policies. The country’s NAPA currently is the cornerstone of Cambodian adaptation planning and priority action identification. Major policy frameworks are much more generally focused and have goals more related to sustainable resource management and poverty reduction; as such, they have adaptation co-benefits.


There are a number of nationally and regional adaptation projects and programs occurring in Cambodia at present. National projects are focused on capacity building, as well as some policy formulation, awareness raising, knowledge sharing, and community based adaptation activities. The main sectors of focus are agriculture, water, risk reduction and meteorology. Cambodia is participating in a slightly higher proportion of regional projects. These projects are primarily focused on capacity building, vulnerability assessment, research, and policy formulation within the areas of health, nature, water, risk reduction, and policy. Funders active in supporting adaptation action in Cambodia include: the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF), the World Bank’s Climate Investment Facility, and the governments of Denmark, the European Commission, Sweden and the United States.


Through the completion of its NAPA, Cambodia identified a number of priority adaptation projects for funding. The level of detail for these proposed actions is quite general and may be elaborated upon in the future. As well, Cambodia has proposed projects for funding to the Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF).


Climate change is a high priority for Cambodia, as acknowledged through its national level strategic cross-sectoral planning, as well as through completion of its NAPA. The country has made progress in identifying key adaptation goals and priorities, and the government has established high level of knowledge on where its current adaptation gaps lie. Of the key adaptation priorities identified by the country, it appears that the areas of agriculture and water are receiving the bulk of attention through ongoing adaptation projects, although there appears to be a need for concrete initiatives such as building dikes to minimize the impacts of floods and testing climate resilient crops. A number of ongoing projects are also working to improve domestic capacity to address climate change at the policy level. Gaps in adaptation action appear to exist within the following areas:

  •  Human health: Identified as a priority through the country’s NAPA and National Communication, there are presently very few adaptation activities addressing health underway in the country.
  •  Coastal zones: There presently do not appear to be any projects occurring within this area; however certain ongoing projects addressing adaptation within the water sector may touch upon these coastal zones although this is not explicitly mentioned.
  •  Fisheries: Fisheries are a critical part of the Cambodian’s diet and future project work may seek to expand adaptation initiatives within this sector.
  •  Gender: although a component of a couple of regional projects, none of the initiatives identified in Cambodia specifically aim to understand and respond to the gender dimensions of climate change.

Primary Source: Gass, Philip; Hove, Hilary; Parry, Jo-Ellen. (2011) “Review of Current and Planned Adaptation Action: East and Southeast Asia.” Adaptation Partnership / International Institute for Sustainable Development.

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