We recently wrote about how farmers in Bangladesh are using floating gardens to survive when floods and monsoons raise water levels. Now, the ActionAid campaign She is the Answer is harnessing these same farming tactics to empower women in Cambodia whose livelihoods are increasingly threatened by climate change.
The women who reside in the floating villages of Pursat, Cambodia face difficulty finding steady employment. The opportunities that exist on dry land are not available to the water-dwelling locals. The only viable option is fishing, however long and frequent storms prevent them from going out, and when they do manage to go, they only catch up to two kilos a day. To make matters worse, the strong winds often sweep their equipment away from them, making the ordeal all the more challenging.
The dry seasons are just as difficult. Ol Pheap, a 41-year-old fisherwoman from the village of Kompong Knie says that the dry seasons “are lasting seven months, which is unusual… when there is a dry season like that, the water recedes so far out that we have to move our equipment and boats [far away].”
Studies show that the climate crisis disproportionately affects women, especially in a country such as Cambodia, which is listed as one of the countries most at risk from the climate emergency and ranks poorly on the World Economic Forum’s 2021 Global Gender Gap Index. To address this, the charity ActionAid launched She is the Answer to support entire communities by empowering Cambodian women to take on climate-adaptive livelihoods. This campaign is based on research that shows that female empowerment is one of the most effective solutions in tackling human-induced climate change.
In the village of Oakol, ActionAid helped set up floating gardens and have trained women like Pheap to tend to them. The locals harvest vegetables which are then distributed throughout the community. Any extra veggies are sold to neighboring villages.
The garden generates about 10,000 to 15,000 Cambodian riels per day, which is more than what is earned through fishing. The garden also supports the community’s health as more villagers are now consuming vegetables. The She is the Answer campaign hopes to continue offering opportunities for women with education about climate science and sustainable farming methods.
One volunteer says, “I feel like I’m no longer a woman who only knows how to do one thing… I know how to grab opportunities and I can now share those life skills with other people.”