Irrigation Development in Cambodia in 2011
In August 2010, the Cambodian government has set up the policy of exporting milled rice up to 1 million tons in 2015. To reach this goal many strategies have been designed and put into practice. One of them is to expand the construction and rehabilitation of irrigation systems across the country, so that the production of rice could be done on a stable basis, not only depending on rain water only. Due to the climate change situation we could observe that raining pattern has been changed a lot. In some years, there are a lot of rains. In some years, it is drought.
According to Mr. Lim Kean Hor, Minister of Water Resource and Metrology (MOWRAM), the government has been planning to expense USD 120 million for construction of irrigation schemes in 22 provinces, in 2011. Last year, it was USD 70 million. The money is coming from three main sources: government, development partners and loans. With this investment, the Minister hopes that there will be irrigated water secured to irrigate around 350,000 ha (Angkor Thom Magazine, 25.04.2011). It is indeed very good news for Cambodian farmers. It is estimated that there are more than 2,000 irrigation schemes existed in the country, but total irrigated area in the dry season is about 15% and in the wet season is about 35% of the total cultivated area.
Dr. Yang Saing Koma, CEDAC President, welcomes the news. He mentioned that rice needs water and with enough water secured yields could be increased between 300-500 kg more. However, he stated that “in order to operate and maintain these irrigation schemes in a sustainable way, there is real needs to provide basic knowledge to farmers in managing and using those water properly” (Angkor Thom, 25.04.11).
After having been involved in the irrigation sector, especially in the social component, for more than ten years, I do also welcome this great news that the government would invest more to upgrade our irrigation schemes. I and other CEDAC staff have been involved in Stung Chinit, Sdau Kaong, Batheay irrigation schemes and other small projects at the local level. Currently, we are working to establish an Irrigation Service Center (ISC) in Kampong Thom province in order to provide technical supports to the FWUC in the long run.
My remarks concerning irrigation in Cambodia are as follows:
- To build irrigation schemes, it is easy; though there is much money needed. To overcome this problem; government, donors agencies and banks could shoulder the costs. Of course, farmers need to contribute their own parts to the cost in cash or in kind (labour, part of land for schemes construction, active participation in meetings etc), so that their ownership feeling is increased.
- To operate and maintain in a proper way, it is the most difficult part. Very often, the physical works were done without user consultation.
- The quality of the construction works is a major problem. Quite often, the schemes were built with poor to medium quality standard. Then, it is handed over to Farmer Water User Community (FWUC) for operation and maintenance with limited support from government and other stakeholders. The failure is already designed at this stage. No wonder, why many irrigation schemes ceased to function properly right after the construction works are finished or the projecte end.
- Large irrigation schemes are necessary, but small and medium scales are easier for farmers to manage. Focus should be set for the second parts.
- Farmers should change their behaviors in using collective irrigated water and adapt their cropping calendars to the new challenges of irrigated agriculture.
- There is real needs for periodical support to FWUC after the construction works, financially and technically.
- The support of the local authority for the FWUC is vital for the sustainable management and operation of the schemes
- Private sectors should be encouraged to invest in irrigation. The state could define the legal framework for the active involvement of this sector.
However, there is no way out, that government and other stakeholders should spend money to build many irrigation schemes as possible. According to Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), rice has been cultivated on 2.78 million ha in 2010. The total yields are 8.24 million tons of paddy rice with average yield of 2.97 tons per ha for both seasons.