USAID - CASE STUDY Sustainable Livelihoods and Water Management in Shared River Basins
The Songkram River is an undammed, major tributary of the Mekong River in Northeast Thailand. Approximately 960 square kilometers of the Lower Songkram River Basin (LSRB) floods seasonally, generating a large wetland area that supports key livelihoods such as rice cultivation and fishing. Some parts of the LSRB receive more than two meters of precipitation annually, though this is distributed over a six month period and flash flooding is rare. Mild flooding occurs almost every year, and the last severe floods were in 1966 and 1995. Each of these floods lasted for two months, reached the second floor of dwellings, damaged agricultural fields, killed livestock, and was associated with outbreaks of diarrhea and foot and mouth disease. Although drought has historically not been a problem, the LSRB did experience mild droughts in 1986, 2003, and 2004. These led to reduced agricultural yields for most crops, shifts to dry land agriculture, and increased demand from the farming community for dams to buffer against such problems in the future. In addition to being important to local livelihoods, the LSRB is a demonstration site for the Mekong Wetlands Biodiversity Program.
### Development Challenge
To balance the competing needs of protecting livelihoods and biodiversity.
### Lessons Learned
Human impacts, such as dams, deforestation, and water use practices, currently pose the most serious threat to water availability for downstream populations.
Water level of the Songkram was found to be driven by water level of the Mekong, indicating that future analyses and water management strategies should focus on the Mekong.
A small additional amount of money ($5,000-$10,000) would allow for direct follow-up engagement with local parties and potential partners who might be interested in implanting adaptations identified by this pilot.
Different stakeholders (state representatives vs. community leaders) had different ideas about the most feasible or desirable solutions to problems. For this pilot study, workshops with these two groups were held separately. Having a single workshop would be helpful in achieving a consensus plan, though it is important to make sure the diversity of views is still initially expressed. Alternatively, in some cases, a pre-existing project may be constrained to work at a particular level (e.g., household adaptations vs. regional government policy) and this will determine who are the key stakeholders to engage.
This pilot study was not connected with a pre-existing USAID project, and instead started by identifying a site where climate change was likely to impact livelihoods.
To identify and adopt strategies that will allow villagers relying on climate sensitive sources of income to maintain stable livelihoods.
1. Impact on government planning: Results were presented to the Thai government for consideration in the development of their National Strategic Plan on Climate Action, which will include adaptation strategies in five vulnerable sectors and an adaptation capacity building strategy.
2. Identification of ways in which USAID can contribute to promoting sustainable livelihoods:
Convey to government the impacts of upstream river management on Songkram livelihoods;
Promote alternative crops;
Help identify new markets;
Work with local and national government to improve natural resource management;
Build local capacity; and
Advise on the development of a national insurance framework to partially compensate losses due to flooding and on laws to regulate unsustainable fishing practices.0