Water Interventions for Improving Smallholder Farming and Rural Livelihoods in Asia

24-27.01.2012: On CEDAC’s behalf, I was invited by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Regional Office, to participate in a Regional Consultation Workshop, which was held in Winsor Suites Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand. The objectives of the gathering were:

  1. To obtain guidance in the conduction of a regional study on the role of water interventions to improve rural livelihoods in the East-, South- and Southeast Asia;
  2. To discuss with the national consultants/partners on the methodology, data requirement and availability, structure of the report and timeframe of the national study; and
  3. To officially “kick-off” the regional study on the above mentioned topic.

Participants for a group photo

More than 30 participants, who joined the workshop, were regional experts, national consultants/partners including experts from FAO, Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) and regional and international organizations from countries in the region and from Europe. The national study will be conducted in Bangladesh (Northeast Region), Cambodia, China (Hunan province), India (Jharkhand State) and Sri Lanka.

CEDAC was invited to conduct the national study in Cambodia with myself as Team Leader. The activities which will be implemented by our team are as following:

  • Contextualize study methodology as applicable to Cambodian context;
  • Literature review and data collection and analysis on water, rural poverty and livelihoods issues
  • Implementation of national consultation workshop; and
  • Report on water and its intervention on rural smallholder farmers’ livelihoods in Cambodia.

During the workshop, I have made two brief presentations addressing the country setting, the water related issues, factors affecting smallholder farmers, government’s plan on irrigation, potential water interventions on rural livelihoods and methodological framework for the country level study. It was a real workshop, where 60% of the time was spent in group works, discussions and sharing of knowledge, expertise and experiences. It is important to note that among 14 million population, 80 % of Cambodians are subsistent farmers, 88 % of the poor are living in rural areas, 25% of the households headed by women, 26 % of the population live under the national poverty line (U$ 1/day), around 70% are under 30 years old, and ~ 150.000-250.000 new entrants joining the labor force each year.

In the group discussion

The outcome of this regional study will be a Publication on water interventions for improving smallholder farming and rural livelihoods, which will also address especially the linkage between water and rural poverty in Asia. The document could be a useful tool for policy makers and/or decision makers, researchers and all other stakeholders in defining policy and strategy to contribute to poverty alleviation in countries across the region. The study is funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

As reference: similar study was conducted in Sub-Saharan Africa a few years ago. The results were edited by Jean-Marc Faures and Guido Santini, FAO Land and Water Division, and published by IFAD and FAO under the title: Water and the Rural Poor: Interventions for Improving Livelihoods in Su-Saharan Africa; Rome, 2008.


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