Improving rural livelihoods through water irrigation

Location: Svay Chrom village, Battambang province

Summary: Community members in a Banteay Srei target village identified water canals as a significant resource to support their agricultural food production, as well as a mechanism to protect them from flood and drought. Through collective action and support from Banteay Srei the community was able to implement the project, which has improved land productivity significantly.


Just six months ago, married couple Hut Hoeum and Pen Bun Thourn’s nearest water supply was over 100 metres away, making vegetable growing practically impossible and limiting their rice harvest to one per year. “Before we had to walk very far many times a day to collect water and we spent a lot of money on petrol,” says Hoeum. Now thanks to a newly built water canal, which runs just three metres from their property line, the family has a successful turnip farm and have been able to increase their rice production to two harvests per year.

“A year ago, during the village meeting my family and other villagers raised the issue that we did not have access to water irrigation, which meant we were prone to flooding and could only grow rice once a year,” Hoeum explains. Consequently, the plan to build a canal was included in the village development plan and a canal organising committee was established. The community facilitators attempted to raise the funds initially from their Commune Council who were unable to respond due to limited resources, and so they then submitted a proposal to Banteay Srei for financial support. In addition, 24 families personally contributed around $10 each to the project, and many more provided their labour. Together with support from Banteay Srei, the canal organising committee was able to raise the 4 million riel ($1000 USD) necessary to build the water irrigation canal.

Spanning over 1000 metres and benefiting 58 families, the irrigation canal was completed in August 2012. The families benefiting from the canal are now less susceptible to flooding and are able to plant rice twice a year as well as grow other vegetables to improve their livelihoods. “I am very happy now the water is much closer, things are much easier,” says Bun Thourn who together with her husband personally contributed $7 towards the project. “Now we can take water from the canal by our house to grow vegetables. This saves us time and energy and we don’t have to use any petrol so we can save money”.