River Guardian: one woman's fight to protect the Mekong river

Sokunthorwas at the sub-national forum in Kratie in December 2015 to share her experience about the Mekong River and the agriculture practices.
Sokunthorwas at the sub-national forum in Kratie in December 2015 to share her experience about the Mekong River and the agriculture practices. Photo: Oeurm Savann/Oxfam

Growing up in a low-income farming family along the Mekong river in Kratie, Chin Sokunthor, a 60 year old female farmer, said what disappoints her the most is seeing people destroy the river, which is the heart of her family and of their fellow Mekong citizens. In every meeting or forum she has attended hse speaks about the love she has for the river. Her mission is to protect it. 

Sokunthor sees the Mekong River as the lifeblood of millions of citizens. It provides essential water for drinking and irrigation. The fish from the river are also an important food source for the Mekong dwellers.

Since the beginning of 2016, Sokunthor has observed that the Mekong water levels were much lower which has had a negative effect on  the livelihoods of the poor farmers and fishermen. “Both fish and dolphins in the Mekong are at risk of vanishing vanishing," she explains.  

Female champions

Sokunthor was selected to represent the Mekong region as one of 100 woman farming champions at the Sub-national Women Farmer Forum in 2015.  “I was selected to be a champion because villagers trust in my ability to support them, to improve their agriculture productivities and to deal with any related issues in the village, especially the issue of hydropower dam construction,” Sokunthor explains. 

With support from Oxfam’s Inclusion Project Sokunthor attended the National Women Farmer Forum. Her aim was to add her own perspective on water and the Mekong River to the national discussion.  

Sokunthor used this opportunity of the forum to encourage and engage woman farmer champions from different regions to advocate for the sustainability of the Mekong River. She emphasized that this woman farmers’ network will become a strong platformfor debate about social issues and solutions.

Despite the challenges she faces she is determined to always protect the river, “I will continue mobilizing people to stop any illegal fishing. I continue to patrol  the Mekong River. Moreover, I will urge the government to stop the dam construction because I don’t want any bad things happening to our river, especially those which harm the” she says. 

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