Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Acclimatising to food favourites from the fringes



Acclimatising to food favourites from the fringes

Fish amok features on the cover of Adaptive Farms, Resilient Tables.
Fish amok features on the cover of Adaptive Farms, Resilient Tables. Pha Lina

Acclimatising to food favourites from the fringes

The dangers of climate change are often presented as abstract notions of an uninhabitable world plagued by tricky weather and rising sea-levels, but what about a world without fish amok?

A cookbook featuring recipes from Cambodia and five other countries released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in March, and made available for download last month, seeks to raise awareness on the links between food security and climate change.

“As the world gets hotter and rainfall more erratic, the types and availability of ingredients for daily meals are changing,” the introduction of Adaptive Farms, Resilient Tables reads.

Featuring 19 recipes for starters, entrees and sweet dishes from Cambodia, Cabo Verde, Haiti, Mali, Niger and Sudan, the book aims to highlight how the changing climate threatens the resilience of smallholder households and imperils the ability to cook iconic national dishes.

The book “speaks to an intimate human experience, which is food”, says UNDP Country Director Nick Beresford. “The choice [of recipes] is very clear because we reached an agreement from the six countries that each dish is made from ingredients [that are] easily affordable [and] accessible for even common farmers,” says Dara Rat Moni Ung, a former policy adviser to the project who selected the Cambodian recipes.

The book also highlights food diversification, drip irrigation and other climate change resilience programmes, and was spearheaded by UNDP in tandem with the Canadian government and the Global Environment Facility. For Beresford, the relevance to Cambodia could not be clearer, as low crop diversity and shifting rain patterns “can be catastrophic economically” for farmers.

To that aim, the UNDP focused their projects on families with three to six months of food insecurity in provinces susceptible to drought.

“To complement the food that they lack – they go to the jungle, they migrate to the city – this is the way people live,” says Ung. “We try to mobilise those farmers into groups and provide them with water infrastructure,” he adds, such as solar pumps, wind pumps and irrigation systems.

Pinreak Suos, who managed the programme which ran from 2010-2015, says that indeed, under the test of the 2015-2016 El Niño event and drought – the worst since 1979 – the programme proved effective. “I did the follow up myself in Preah Vihear. Not only were they less affected, but they sold water to neighbouring villagers.”

But diversification away from rice – when Cambodians consume 400 grams of rice per day – is both a food security and economic issue. With the country importing some 70 percent of its vegetables, greater diversity of agricultural production – even on a household scale, the UNDP maintains – can make a difference for farmers.

To that end, the cookbook, which features the signature Cambodian dishes samla kako, fish amok and num ansorm, is meant to create a sense of “shared experience” between the reader and those affected by climate change.

“It’s a way of connecting out with a wider audience from a higher income country,” Beresford adds.

For now, the book is English, but the UNDP office in the Kingdom plans to translate the Cambodia-related chapters into Khmer in the coming months and make them publicly available.

Adaptive Farms, Resilient Tables can be downloaded for free here.

MOST VIEWED

  • Hong Kong firm done buying Coke Cambodia

    Swire Coca-Cola Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed Swire Pacific Ltd, on November 25 announced that it had completed the acquisition of The Coca-Cola Co’s bottling business in Cambodia, as part of its ambitions to expand into the Southeast Asian market. Swire Coca-Cola affirmed

  • Cambodia's Bokator now officially in World Heritage List

    UNESCO has officially inscribed Cambodia’s “Kun Lbokator”, commonly known as Bokator, on the World Heritage List, according to Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Phoeurng Sackona in her brief report to Prime Minister Hun Sen on the night of November 29. Her report, which was

  • NagaWorld union leader arrested at airport after Australia trip

    Chhim Sithar, head of the Labour Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees at NagaWorld integrated casino resort, was arrested on November 26 at Phnom Penh International Airport and placed in pre-trial detention after returning from a 12-day trip to Australia. Phnom Penh Municipal Court Investigating Judge

  • Sub-Decree approves $30M for mine clearance

    The Cambodian government established the ‘Mine-Free Cambodia 2025 Foundation’, and released an initial budget of $30 million. Based on the progress of the foundation in 2023, 2024 and 2025, more funds will be added from the national budget and other sources. In a sub-decree signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen

  • Two senior GDP officials defect to CPP

    Two senior officials of the Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) have asked to join the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), after apparently failing to forge a political alliance in the run-up to the 2023 general election. Yang Saing Koma, chairman of the GDP board, and Lek Sothear,

  • Cambodia's poverty cut in half from 2009 to 2019: World Bank report

    A report published by the World Bank on November 28 states that Cambodia’s national poverty rate fell by almost half between 2009 and 2019, but the Covid-19 pandemic recently reversed some of the poverty reduction progress. Cambodia’s poverty rate dropped from 33.8 to 17.8 per cent over the 10