Cambodia: Fish and a Future for Our Children

An entire village floats on the water, people’s homes rest on planks of wood that gently sway with the small waves that come from nearby speedboats. Most people have a little rowboat docked outside their home, others around me are paddling in these rowboats – usually with food and other supplies on board.

It astonishes me that an entire community can sustain itself on, and with, the surrounding water. The floating village is located on the Great Lake Tonle Sap. This lake is surprisingly the most significant body of fresh water in South East Asia. With over 3 million inhabitants around and on the lake, many of them rely on the water to eat and live.

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The threats to the lake and its communities who depend on it are genuine – from growing population, cutting down forests and removing other parts of the delicate ecosystem, construction of dams upstream, and climate change.

I visited in Cambodia was a unique project because it taught me how many different members of the villages on the surrounding the lake are trying to preserve the water. They realise that there is an imminent threat if the lake cannot provide fish for them.

The communities are already acutely aware of the adverse changes that are happening such as less quantity of fish being available. One fisherman tells me that he now has to paddle twice the length as he used to for fishing. Even with this extra distance, he doesn’t manage to catch the same amount of fish than in the past decade. 

The threats to the lake and its communities who depend on it are genuine – from growing population, cutting down forests and removing other parts of the delicate ecosystem, construction of dams upstream, and climate change. This programme captures the idea that we must recognise, support, and sustain life on the water for future generations.

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In the Community Fisheries group in Kampong Chhnang – one of the central provinces of Cambodia –, it was evident each of the members advocated for protecting the water and its resources for future generations. One member I spoke to said in a heavy, yet hopeful tone, “I hope we can protect our waters and fish for our children and their children. This water and our children are the future.”

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Lauren Chan