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Drought affecting one million


A boy leads a cow to water in a paddock on the border of Kampong Speu and Kandal province.

One million people in rural areas are in need of emergency water and food after last

year's drought, said Nhim Vanda, first vice president of the National Committee for

Disaster Management (NCDM).

Vanda said Kampong Speu, Prey Veng, Takeo, Kandal, Banteay Meanchey, Battambang,

Kampong Cham, Mondolkiri and Ratanakkiri were most affected by the early end to the

2004 wet season.

"If there is still no rain, people will have big problems with water and food

shortages," Vanda said.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) was already concerned

about insufficient rice production this year, after suffering both droughts and floods

over the last four years.

In its annual report dated April 7, MAFF officials said total rice production in

2004 was 4.17 million tons, down over 2003 by 705,000 tons.

The report stated that 265,125 hectares of agricultural land had been damaged by

lack of water.

Ram Saravanamuttu, deputy country director of World Food Program (WFP), said they

have began distributing 1,500 metric tons of rice across nine provinces.

Between November 2004 and January, WFP provided 1,000 tons of rice to 50,000 drought

victims in five provinces, Saravanamuttu said.

"Our preliminary assessment indicates that at least 100,000 households, or 500,000

people, are significantly affected by the drought and need some kind of assistance,

relief or other," he said.

Farmers are now facing both an emergency and long-term problem, said Tsukasa Kimoto,

representative in Cambodia for the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

Kimoto said FAO plans to expand its assistance to drought-affected farmers and will

focus on introducing diversified farming systems with improved resources management

to increase their resilience to future fluctuations in the weather.

Climate change and rapid deforestation was causing a declining water level and Cambodia's

rice harvest remains low despite increasing demands from a growing population, Kimoto


On average, Cambodia produces 1.9 tons of per hectare.

Prime Minister Hun Sen recently appealed for help from Thailand to extend their expensive

rain-seeding efforts across the border into Cambodia and asked the international

community to assist drought-affected farmers.



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