Tradition and Adaptation to Climate Change

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For a long time, the communities in Preah Vihear province of Cambodia were  completely  dependent  on  natural  resources  that  provided  them  sufficient  food and other needs. There was solidarity among the people. But in recent years, climate change caused drought, floods, storms, irregular rainfall and temperature throughout the year, severely affecting food production, cultural and livelihood activities. Food insecurity stalked six villages with around 500 indigenous Kui families.

Besides climate  change,  massive  deforestation due to logging and  reduction  of  their  lands  due  to  economic  land concessions led to the loss of  traditional  occupations, reduction of agricultural output, lack of food, loss of income, and people’s anxiety. Many were mired in debt to microfinance institutions for their daily needs. Circumstances pushed Kui people to migrate for work, or engage in illegal logging to survive. Their cultural practices were undermined and they needed to strengthen their  traditional  knowledge and  sustainable  resource  management  systems to  adapt  to  climate  change and for food  security. The  impacts  of  land  concessions  to  their  livelihoods and environment compelled the Kui people to  learn  community  action through  group  meetings and discussions.

The Kui people responded through awareness-raising  on  climate  change  and  disaster  risk  response that involved hundreds of participants, significantly women and local  authorities from the district,  commune  and  village  levels.  They threshed out community  issues  such  as  rights  to  traditional  land  use, natural  resource  management,  and  diminishing traditional  livelihoods. This  learning  process  led to the revival of traditional practices such  as  resin-gathering, helping  each  other  in  farming, exchange labour in shifting cultivation and harvesting, hunting, cattle raising, NTFP  harvesting, fruit and vegetable farming. 

As agreed upon during community meetings, it was most practical and necessary to form cash saving groups, rice saving groups and build rice granaries in several villages. Community members realized the need in the context of food security through rice granary management and as a mechanism and response to disaster risk management. Rice barns are essential in every community and the rice saving group was to ensure that their communities are actively involved in addressing the challenges and impact of climate change. 

The rice granary management training was implemented in six villages and community members learned techniques in pre- and post-harvest of rice such as quality and quantity of rice based on speed and duration of harvesting and drying. Tips were given on barn management and rice storage such as better moisture, amount of oxygen, pest control, and other preventive measures of wastage.

There is food security with seed banking of different rice varieties and food crops. Communities realize that seed banks are safe location for their traditional seeds and they distinguish the domestic from external seeds. Sadly, there is gradual loss of some traditional seeds and rapid flow of new or external seeds into indigenous farming sites. The communities resolved to conserve their traditional seeds and reminded the youth to be aware and interested in holding on to their traditional seeds for the future.

The documentation of the village history included traditional and cultural practices in resource  management, such as praying  to  the  rice spirit for better yields, appreciation of the  forests  as sacred places  of  spirits  and  source of traditional livelihoods. They also produced  a video documentary about the communities’ assertion of rights  to land  title  and  forest use,  their beliefs, and  the  challenges they face. The publication of materials on  traditional  knowledge and related  cultural  practices  for  climate resilience was used for inter-community  learning  with  focus  on  the  youth. The training enabled  community  representatives  to  learn  from  each  other, understand  the  indigenous  peoples’ rights to  land,  forest,  natural  resources  and  environment, FPIC,  UNDRIP, concept and  advantages  of  REDD+; and  to make  plans and strategies for  their  communities.

The  project  raised  awareness  on  climate  change  and  enhanced  the  use  of  traditional  knowledge  of  the  Kui  people  to  increase  their  resilience  to  climate  change  particularly  on  food  security. The project concluded with six communities’ enhanced resilience to climate change. They have rice granaries, seed banks, their traditional knowledge, their solidarity and cooperation to mitigate the harms of climate change.

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The project “Strengthening IP traditional Knowledge and Adaptation to Climate Change” was implemented in 2017 by the Organization for the Promotion of Kui Culture in Cambodia with support from PAWANKA Fund.