Community resilience in South East Asia

A fisherman stands by the Mekong river, Loas.
A 67 year old local fisherman stands by the Mekong river, Loas. He has participated in a program to pass his skills on to the next generation. Photo: Savann Oeurm

Asia is experiencing unprecedented change. Economic growth is bringing undeniable benefits, and lifting people out of poverty but other changes are increasing the vulnerability of many portions of the population.  Climate change, the rapid increase of the number of natural disasters, political instability are all contributing to escalating inequality levels.

Oxfam is working with local partners in Cambodia and Laos to help communities become more resilient to the challenges they face. From climate change to land rights, we are ensuring that people have the knowledge and skills they need to be able to confront any problem.

Indigenous land rights

We are working with communities near the Vietnamese border, in the northern province of Ratanakiri, Cambodia. Indigenous communities here are at risk of losing their communal land to commercial enterprises like mines and plantations.

 Panos Pictures/ Patrick Brown Sev Leam,  deputy chief of Phi village, North-Eastern Ratanakiri province, at a local meeting. Photo: Patick Brown/Panos for Oxfam

Oxfam is funding several local organizations that are helping indigenous communities understand their right to communal land title, how to register their land, and negotiate with companies and government to defend their land rights.

 Panos Pictures/ Patrick BrownPing Chamroeun, of Prov ethnicity, is from Tampoun Roung Thom village in the Taveng district of Ratanakiri. Photo: Patick Brown/Panos for Oxfam

Through our partner Media One,Ping Chamroeun participated in a training course created for youth leaders where she learned about indigenous land rights and other important issues that her community faces.

When a nearby community recently contacted her about a Chinese mining company exploring their village, Ping was able to use her new skills, especially social media and networking skills to raise awareness of the issue. She documented the company’s activity and posted photos and information about the incident on Facebook. She also showed her posts to the mining company’s workers which convinced them to leave the area.

Saving for Change 

As well as helping people know about and stand up for their rights we work to empower people economically. Through our partnership with the Youth Council of Cambodia we are helping young people save money for what matters to them; their futures and their families.

 Panos Pictures/Patrick BrownStudents studying at Samrong, High School in Oddar, Meanchey province. Photo: Patick Brown/Panos for Oxfam

The program welcomes participants up to their early 30s and now has more than 90 groups in Oddar, Meanchey Province. Young participants save small amounts which they can use to pay for school expenses or continue saving to invest in starting a business when they are older. 

 Panos Pictures/ Patrick Brown25 year old PlenSoben, pictured with her two-year-old daughter, is a beneficiary of the program.  She now runs a small store and restaurant in a village called KoukSangkerch in Oddar, Meanchey province. Plen is a member of two Saving for Change groups, one of which she started herself, and is trying to save enough to buy a motorbikePhoto: Patick Brown/Panos for Oxfam

Sustainable Livelihoods

Oxfam supports sustainable livelihoods in Cambodia and Laos. In Pursat province, Cambodia, our partner organization Srer Khmer teaches farmers to improve their rice harvest through the System of Rice Intensification (SRI). 

 Panos Pictures/Patrick BrownKhekKoeu, 55, a rice seed producer in Pursat province and expert rice farmer trained in use of the System of Rice Intensification. Photo: Patick Brown/Panos for Oxfam

SRI is a a low-tech and accessible system for producing rice using less seed, less water and fertilizer, but one that grows more rice. KhekKoeu explains the results she has seen since she implemented the system, "this business is going well, if you sell the normal rice seed you might get 500 riel/kilo, but our rice seed gets 2,500 riel/kilo because there's high demand. After the harvest people are always buying it from me. They trust me because the quality is so impressive."

In Dong Sahong Island,  Laos, we work with an organization called CLICK which is helping 20 communities along the Mekong River to document traditional commercial activities. This includes fishing techniques, chicken raising and prahok making (a fermented fish used in many Cambodian dishes).

The aim of the project is to help community members to exchange and learn about best practices. At the same time they support local livelihoods and contribute to local school curricula. The program is also designed to help people "see how important the river is to their livelihood," as one CLICK program officer put it.

 Oxfam/ Savann OeurmManivanh Kham Chieng (right) and Keomany Nou Feng are fisherman from Se Hoing village on Dong Sahong, an island in the Mekong river in southern Lao PDR and are both documenting their techniques. Photo: Savann Oeurm/Oxfam

You can find out more about Oxfam's work in Cambodia by visiting their website