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UN-backed climate fund okays $43M plan for Tonle Sap farmers

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An aerial view of a village in the Tonle Sap Basin. FAO CAMBODIA

UN-backed climate fund okays $43M plan for Tonle Sap farmers

The Green Climate Fund (GCF) has approved a $43 million project in Cambodia to enhance the adaptive capacity of smallholder farmers, local communities and other value chain actors of the Northern Tonle Sap Basin to the increasing threats associated with climate change.

The approval was made at the GCF’s 35th board meeting on March 15 in South Korea’s Songdo district.

The project is called “Public-Social-Private Partnerships for Ecologically-Sound Agriculture and Resilient Livelihoods in Northern Tonle Sap Basin” (PEARL).

It was formulated under the leadership of Cambodia’s Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries, with technical support from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

“The approved amount will fund the six-year project that will benefit 450,000 smallholder farmers and local value-chain actors in the northern basin area,” FAO said in a March 15 press release.

It said the area is one of Cambodia’s most important agricultural regions and provides essential resources to support the livelihoods of more than three million Cambodians. It is one of the most vulnerable regions in the country to floods and droughts, which are projected to become more frequent and intense due to climate change, thus exacerbating socioecological vulnerabilities.

Minister of Environment Say Samal said there are untapped potentials for smallholder farmers in the region to embrace climate-resilient, environmentally friendly and high-value agriculture activities.

“Therefore, the approval of the PEARL project is a major step towards addressing the urgent adaptation challenges of smallholder farmers in the region,” he added.

“It aligns with the government’s priority of protecting the most vulnerable people from the impact of climate change ensuring the climate resilient and sustainable development of the agricultural sector,” he continued.

The PEARL project is designed to support smallholder and other value chain beneficiaries by improving their access to climate information, as well as services, finance and technologies to strengthen their resilience to climate change through climate-informed, market oriented agricultural livelihoods.

The project explicitly targets female-headed farming households and female farmers to address their unique socioeconomic vulnerabilities, according to the release.

“The project is innovative by its design – it uses market-based mechanisms to strengthen the rationale for farmers and other local value-chain actors to adopt climate-resilient, sustainable, and profitable agricultural practices, mainly through effective public-social-private partnerships,” said FAO representative in Cambodia Rebekah Bell.

“The project helps smallholder farmers and other local value chain actors access and leverage market opportunities and instruments that will reduce their vulnerability to the impacts of climate change while improving agricultural production and livelihoods,” she added.

The FAO explained that agriculture is one of the key pillars of the Cambodian economy; climate-resilient, high-value and inclusive agriculture has the potential to increase the resilience of smallholder farmers and other local value chain actors.

“The emerging markets for key agricultural commodities (cashew, mango, rice, and vegetables) targeted by the project offer excellent opportunities to incentivise vulnerable, smallholder farmers and other local value-chain actors to adopt climate-resilient practices and technologies, and improve their livelihoods,” said the ministry’s director-general of agriculture Ngin Chhay.

“Providing and promoting alternative sources of income for local communities will create a new page for the conservation and protection of natural resources, the environment and biodiversity in Cambodia,” said the ministry under-secretary of state Khieu Borin.

“PEARL will also generate mitigation co-benefits by improving agroecological management practices and critical catchment forest protection and restoration,” said the press release.

“The project is the second GCF-supported project in Cambodia and includes a $36.2 million grant from the GCF, and $6.6 million in co-financing from the ministry of agriculture, the ministry of environment, and FAO,” it added.

The GCF is the world’s largest climate fund. It was established by 194 governments with the mandate of supporting developing countries responses to the challenges of climate change.

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