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Community / Land projects / SRJS_ToC_KH Securing livelihoods in the upper Mekong region

SRJS_ToC_KH Securing livelihoods in the upper Mekong region


01/16 - 12/20


This project is part of


The Mekong River is the largest and most important river in Cambodia. The Mekong Basin is home to over 40 ecologically critical and threatened animal species, such as the emblematic Mekong Dolphin and many endemic fish species. 60 million people in the Mekong Basin depend on the river for their food and income, as a large part of people’s diets and livelihoods rely directly on fish. The river also provides irrigation water for the country’s agriculture. Due to the fast-growing economy, increasing population and growing urban centers, the demand for food and water has skyrocketed. At the same time, ecosystems that ensure the continuous supply of clean fresh water and fish are under threat from various economic activities, such as hydropower dams, large-scale irrigation development, deforestation, mining, intensive agriculture and unsustainable fish harvesting. The increasing competition for scarce natural resources is leading to tensions between their different users. Over the years, the Cambodian government has issued more than 50 economic land concessions (ELC) for large-scale agricultural production, often on land already occupied by indigenous peoples. With no capacity to defend their ancestral land rights, thousands of families have been evicted from their land without any form of compensation, leaving them with no access to their traditional sources of livelihood and subsistence. Intensive large-scale agricultural production undercuts the price of communities’agricultural products and releases toxic pesticides and chemical fertilizers into the water systems, negatively affecting fisheries and the health of the population. Hydropower dams and mining operations threaten the supply and water quality in the Mekong. This is aggravated by the effects of climate change, with seasons fluctuating between long dry spells and widespread and severe flooding. Flooding is a top risk in Cambodia and a leading cause of deaths. Experts warn that fisheries production in the Mekong and the Tonle Sap will be reduced by 50% over the next 30 years when all the projected dams upstream are finally constructed.