Thousands of families displaced by seasonal flooding are now beginning to return home, yet impacted rice fields still require urgent harvesting and replanting to salvage, according to an October 23 National Committee for Disaster Management report.
More than 148,700 families nationwide have had their homes flooded this year, leading to more than 5,600 evacuations as of Monday. The flooding destroyed 119,815 hectares of rice fields in need of replanting and damaged an additional 60,267 hectares which could be recovered if harvested immediately, the report said.
“This year’s flooding was way bigger than it was in 2021 and it caused more damage as the rain has caused flooding since May,” said Soth Kimkolmony, committee spokesperson.
“The overall situation is getting better now, but there are still some areas that remain flooded,” he said. “Now is an essential time for restoration, especially in the agricultural sector.”
The northwestern provinces of Banteay Meanchey, Battambang, Pursat and Kampong Thom have been the most severely impacted provinces, the committee’s report added.
The Ministry of Agriculture has been working with local authorities to help farmers restore their damaged fields, distributing more than 1,809 tons of rice seeds across the country as of Sunday, Kimkomony said.
Stopping in Battambang to speak with flood-affected families on Monday as part of a regional flood tour to distribute aid, Prime Minister Hun Sen said the government plans to issue an additional 7,000 tons of rice seed to farmers to replant rice destroyed by flooding.
‘’The next responsibility of the Ministry of Agriculture is not only to follow the same old path but help farmers to take up modern agriculture techniques in order to increase their incomes,” Hun Sen said.
Sok Hai, deputy governor of Kampong Thom, the province most impacted by flooding so far this year, said that the situation is improving and 1,500 people evacuated in his province returned to their homes in the past two weeks.
More than 29,344 Kampong Thom families’ homes were damaged and 12,231 hectares of rice fields submerged and destroyed, according to the committee report.
“The water level of the Tonle Sap is now below the point of causing flooding,” Hai said. “The authorities have been helping residents who are most affected with basic needs as well as rice seeds to enable them to start their farming again.”
Theng Savoeun, president of Coalition of Cambodia Farmer Community Association, a farming collective, said that the Ministry of Agriculture’s biggest challenge will be finding markets for the affected farmers’ crops.
Tae Long, deputy chief of Thmey village in O’Sralao commune of Banteay Meanchey’s Malai district, said his low-lying village’s livelihood was harmed by the flooding, which was worse than before.
“More people were affected and about 30 hectares of cassava were damaged and that is not a pleasant thing to see,” Long said. “This is the main source of income for people living here.”
“Every time there is a flood, it is difficult for the locals to live here,” Long added. “The majority of them are day laborers, therefore if they cannot go to work during the flood that means they also do not have enough money to support their family with even three meals a day.”
On October 17, the Prime Minister called for microfinance institutions to help most-affected families by decreasing interest rates and delaying loan repayments. Two days later, the Cambodia Microfinance Association agreed to ease loan terms for flood victims.
While the worst of the flooding appears to have subsided, the rainy season is expected to continue until the middle of November, said Mao Hak, director of the Tonle Sap Authority of the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology.