Understanding Social Capital in Response to Floods and Droughts: A Study of Five Villages in Two Ecological Zones of Kompong Thom Province, August 2007

Cambodia entered the 21st century with the hope of ushering in an era of peace and prosperity, only to suffer the devastation of floods and droughts for five successive years. The flood of 2000/1 was considered the worst in 70 years. This flood affected 3.4 million people in 19 of the country’s 24 provinces and municipalities, and left 347 dead. The government estimated the total physical damages at US$ 157 million. Overall 317,975 houses were damaged and 7,068 were completely demolished. Around 616,750 hectares of rice fields were flooded and, of these, 374,174 hectares were destroyed. Total relief assistance by November 2000 amounted to 18,000 tons of milled rice which was about 4 percent of the estimated production loss of 424,000 tons of milled rice.

In 2001/2 Cambodia was struck by both flood and drought. The flood affected 2.1 million people in many regions still recovering from the deluge of the previous year. Many rice farming households did not have sufficient rice seeds to plant. About one million of the flood victims suffered food shortages. A total 62 people died. Meanwhile drought in the same year left about half a million people with food deficits in six provinces.2 In many of these areas people and livestock also suffered a lack of drinking water. In all the irregular rainfall and serious flooding in 2001/2 damaged about 250,000 hectares of rice crop. The total damages of the disasters were estimated at US$ 36 million.

In 2002/3 the country was once again ravaged by the combined effects of flood and drought. The government reported the drought experienced that year to be the worst in two decades. While the drought affected the entire country eight provinces were especially hard hit.4 More than 2 million people and 134,926 hectares of rice crop were affected. The damages of the drought were estimated at US$ 21.5 million. Meanwhile several provinces, particularly those situated along the Mekong River, encountered floods in the same year due to the heavy rains throughout Southeast Asia.5 Nearly 1.5 million people were affected by the floods and 29 lost their lives. The floods decimated an estimated 40,027 hectares of rice crop. The damages of the floods in 2002/3 were estimated at US$12.45 million.

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