Grassroots adaptation

September 19, 2022

Local communities in Cambodia are trialing an innovative approach to climate adaptation through an emerging ‘Citizens Climate Network’ (CCN) in Pursat and Prey Veng provinces.

Over an initial six-month period, the project aims to:

  • raise grassroot awareness about climate-related issues and what local communities can do to adapt;
  • share resources and climate stories in each community to spread ideas and inspire others to join in the activities; and
  • bring citizens’ perspectives about climate risks and climate actions to policy dialogues.

While Cambodia already has a national strategy on climate, local communities have not been involved in setting indicators of success. The CCN aims to bridge this gap through a consultative approach to identify and carry out practical actions for adaptation.

Distribution of bottled water is a practical action to ensure people have safe drinking water in times of drought.

An approach of 'co-designed localism'

East Meets West, an international NGO program that is part of the US-based Thrive Network, facilitates the CCN. The project aims to transfer climate knowledge to local residents, promote sharing of ideas, and support practical adaptation are that are proposed and co-designed with local communities themselves.

To achieve these aims, the network trains local facilitators, who may be village heads or other community leaders, to organize monthly activities with groups of 50 to 70 people at a time. The network engages 34 villages in Pursat province and 17 in Prey Veng, and has seven local facilitators in total.

So far, the network has conducted activities for drought response, disaster preparedness, home vegetable gardening, and hygiene for health. One recent event brought communities together to plant trees at schools, pagodas, and public roads. Another focused on preparing emergency kits in readiness for a disaster situation.

The project is conducted as participatory action research. The organizers call their approach 'co-designed localism' that collaborates with local communities and draws inspiration from the surrounding physical, social and cultural environment.

Preparation of First Aid kits for emergency response.

Lessons learned

Since the project began in early 2022, the organizers have observed increasing confidence and willingness of the participants, especially women, to share ideas about climate change and adaptation with each other and in their villages.

Women present their analysis of climate impacts and propose steps forward for adaptation.

The organizers have distilled some lessons about promoting community-based adaptation, which they presented at the Mekong Connections Learning Forum in Thailand on 23-24 August. They noted that:

  • local facilitators can benefit from guidelines for facilitating community sessions;
  • participants are reluctant to provide frank feedback in a large group as this may be seen as criticism, so feedback should only be sought in safe spaces such as small groups or in one-to-one encounters;
  • scheduling must take into account women’s domestic duties, as they are generally unable to stay for a whole day of activities;
  • presentation materials should include pictures and videos to accommodate participants with limited literacy;
  • groups should aim to have a balance of those who are quiet and those who tend to speak a lot, so as to ensure all have a chance to share their thoughts; and 
  • team-building games are useful to keep participants motivated through the day.

The CCN currently receives a civil society grant through Pact Thailand’s Mekong Connections program. The organizers hope that the project can be replicated in partnership with others in the Mekong region once the pilot phase is over.

For more information about the Citizens Climate Network and to discuss opportunities for collaboration, contact Dr Lien Pham.

Catch a glimpse of project activities here.

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