Cambodian fishers work to protect floating villages
Oxfam partner, Fisheries Action Coalition Team (FACT), trains community leaders to negotiate development on Tonle Sap Lake. Through compiling research and guiding the fishers to meet, exchange information, and voice their opinions to the government, FACT empower them to protect both the lake and their long-standing way of life.
Oxfam partner trains community leaders to negotiate development on Tonle Sap Lake.
live along the lakeshore in small shacks built on stilts. Others live
on the water in moored houseboats, rafts, and barges. From these simple
homes, the fishers hurl out their lines and pull up their baskets,
hoping to catch enough to feed their families and satisfy the middlemen
in the fish trade.
According to the Fisheries Action Coalition Team (FACT), an Oxfam-funded partner organization in Cambodia, the fishers help support about 1.5 million people.
“The Tonle Sap is very, very important, not only for the people who live on and around the lake, but for all of Cambodia,” said Pen Raingsey, project officer at FACT.
Each year, monsoon
rains and melting snows from the Himalayas feed the Mekong River,
swelling the Tonle Sap Lake. This yearly pattern nourishes a diverse
underwater world of flooded forests and more than 100 species of fish.
But because the Tonle Sap is not only a source of food, but also a route for transportation and commerce, it faces increasing risks. Neighboring countries, corporations, and regional finance institutions want to blast rapids, develop hydropower dams, and build harbors on the Tonle Sap and its connecting waterways.
For fishers who are accustomed to picking up and moving with the changing tides, it's a difficult process to learn about these threats, let alone do anything about them. Water nomads as they are, fishers don't always meet up with their neighbors, or feel comfortable voicing their opposition to the government.
Creating a Network of Local Leaders
where the Fisheries Action Coalition Team comes in. The group navigates
the Tonle Sap, networking with fishers and bringing them to shore to
meet, exchange information, and tell decision-makers what effect their
developments will have. Then FACT compiles the research into a database
and uses it to refute claims that certain developments would have no
Because of this work, fishers on the Tonle Sap say they feel empowered to protect their way of life.
Sitting on a small motorboat in the middle of the muddy waters of the Tonle Sap, Ly Saloeun, 53, said FACT trained him to write reports, and work with his neighbors to advocate for change.
He is one of many key fishers, each learning how to protect their community.
“We want to encourage the local community to raise their concerns to the decision makers,” Raingsey said. “Before, people had no time or rights. Now, when a problem occurs, they can find a way to resolve that problem.”