Cambodian farmers can no longer rely on the Tonle Sap lake

The Third Pole

“I’ve seen lower yields on my farm each year since maybe 2017 or 2018 – there just isn’t enough water,” says Yoeum Yoeut.

Yoeut, 52, is a lifelong resident of the Baran district in Cambodia’s northwest Battambang province. Her livelihood has always depended on the natural flooding of Tonle Sap lake and its tributaries, but climate change, extreme weather and upstream dams have upended this.

“Last year, the crops just wouldn’t grow the same. My yield was maybe 70% of what I was hoping for – and last year was already worse than 2019. Each year, the rains are harder to predict, there’s less water in the Sangke river and we’re all feeling it,” Yoeut says. She adds that people west of National Road 5, a highway that borders the south of Tonle Sap, “have no water at all any more”.

“They’ve got canals and irrigation ditches, but they run dry before the crops are ready to harvest.”

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