Cambodia finding solutions to Climate Change by empowering women

Date: Friday, March 08, 2019

Geographic Area: Cambodia

Every morning at ten o'clock, Sok Sopheap sets off to pick up her grandchildren from the local school in time for lunch. In Tropang Thom village, Sopheap is a familiar face. But she’s also unusual. People of her age in other countries often spend their days in quiet comfort, but Sopheap is bustling about. In some ways, she has no choice.

Climate change is transforming Tropang Thom, and older women like Sopheap bear heavy burdens confronting the shift. Tropang Thom has been in the grip of an oscillating water crisis, like other villages in Takeo province. During some months, taps run dry, paddy fields wither and villagers walk up to 20 kilometres to collect water. At other times, a sudden onslaught of rain floods the village and washes crops away. Children fall sick from a lack of clean water and nutrition. Residents lament that the rice harvest calendar no longer matches the weather calendar. With declining crop yields, households are having to think outside the box for solutions.

The double burden of climate change on Cambodian women

While young men migrate to urban centres in search of jobs, women and children stay in the villages. Younger women spend the week working late hours in textile mills nearby for meagre incomes, while older women tend the fields, take care of the children and assume nearly all the domestic responsibilities. Even for spritely Sopheap, the burden is undeniable. As climate change pushes everyone to work harder and harder for less and less, more generations are sucked into this vicious cycle.

Generations of women are stuck in this trap. Yet Sopheap is one of the lucky few who seems to have managed to break free. A couple of years ago, Sopheap invested in a biogas pipeline fitted to her home with the support of a local enterprise called ATEC International. The device provides renewable energy from manure sourced straight from her cow-shed, and has eased Sopheap’s life in many ways.

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