Prime Minister Hun Sen used a speech at a food security seminar Monday to once again stress the need for Cambodia to develop modern irrigation facilities to better exploit the land and meet growing food requirements.
Speaking from his office building in Phnom Penh, Mr. Hun Sen lamented the fact that some provinces are presently without adequate water as the short window for transplanting rainy-season rice shoots approaches.
“We are now growing rice in the rainy season on 2.4 million hectares of land but only half of this 2.4 million of hectares are watered to the limits,” Mr. Hun Sen said. “We couldn’t find a water source in the last few days in Kompong Speu province or parts of Takeo and Kampot provinces.”
“Our citizens face twin problems—one is from floods and one is from droughts,” Mr. Hun Sen continued. “Thus investment in the watering system remains a priority.”
Cambodia is presently stricken with drought in large parts of the southwest, while floods in the northeast along the Mekong River have already led to the deaths of 35 people and the evacuation of 120,000 families this month.
The U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimated earlier this year that floods during the rainy season this time last year, which killed more than 150 people, also led to losses of 128,500 hectares of paddy rice.
Without a modern irrigation system, the country’s farmers mostly still rely on the good fortunes of high rainfall in their immediate area and at the appropriate times to produce sizable crops.
Mr. Hun Sen said that farmers needed to adapt practices for their land to become more productive as the country’s population expands.
“The habits of Cambodian people since the ancient times was to have a hectare of land for a five-member family. If the family reaches 10 members, they must have 2 or 3 hectares of land,” he said.
“If we continue this way, our forests will be completely cut down across the country and the migration to find new land and anarchic forest encroachments will continue.”