Second Fieldwork Phase in Prek Prasob district, Cambodia

The second fieldwork phase of the APN project was conducted in Prek Prasob district in June 2016. Project team participants included Prof Andreas Neef (University of Auckland), Mr Siphat Touch (Ministry of Rural Development, Cambodia), Dr Chanrith Ngin (Royal University of Phnom Penh) and Dr Bryan Boruff, Ms Julia Horsley and Mr Mark Williams (University of Western Australia). Ms Sochanny Hak and two students from the Royal University of Phnom Penh, Mr Sengponleur Yuk and Mr Kimleng Sa, facilitated the fieldwork as moderators, research assistants and translators.

The research focused on four villages on the western banks of the Mekong River, a few kilometres to the south of Kratie’s provincial capital. The villages involved in the study included Thma Reab, Ou Long, Deidos Krom and Kbal Koh Tasuy. These communities were selected as exemplars of flood-affected communities along the Mekong, including inhabited islands within the river itself.

At least two workshops in each of the four communities were conducted. The workshops were delivered in Khmer and translation into English was provided by students from the Royal University of Phnom Penh. A combination of semi-structured focus groups and participatory mapping was used to gather data. Each workshop incorporated approximately 6-10 participants, predominantly split along gender lines, and lasted for 60-90 minutes. A semi-structured focus group technique was employed to allow participants to direct the conversation, raise issues relevant to them, and for the researcher to add follow-up questions. The questions for this study were developed and adjusted based on observations gathered during pilot interviews conducted by the larger project earlier in the year, around themes of perceptions, vulnerability and adaptation.

Where responses had a spatial aspect, the participants were encouraged to draw on maps as semi-structured focus groups were being conducted, thereby provoking ideas, helping stakeholders clarify their views and emphasising the on-ground realities affecting their communities. The participants were asked to identify on maps important locations around their community (i.e. infrastructure, safe places, agriculture areas, etc.), where hazards occur (floods, droughts), and how hazards develop over time (e.g. the story of flooding in geography and temporal scales). Areas of vulnerability and relevant related information were also identified.

The study progressed with four different maps for each village to enable the participants to identify their preferred map style. The maps were centred on the village in question with two maps printed at ~1:2,500 scale and two maps at ~1:25,000. For each scale, different base maps were provided, one with a topographic style background, including rivers, creeks, villages, roads, and other infrastructure, and the other maps presented as satellite images.

An additional activity conducted during the workshops included the application of Q-sort methodology. Research participants were asked to sort sets of statements according to the degree to which they agreed or disagreed with each of the statements. The first set of 16 statements pertained to villagers’ perceptions of causes and impacts of natural hazards, particularly flood and drought events. The second set – also composed of 16 statements – referred to coping and adaptation strategies. A total of 13 Q-sort sessions were successfully completed.

Information collected from this field campaign provided an enhanced understanding of each community’s livelihoods approaches including the spatial distribution of livelihood assets and use patterns. In addition, workshops allowed for the capture of detailed descriptions of the hazards that affect each community and the ways that these events impact local livelihoods. The Q-sort methodology allowed for triangulation of information gathered during mapping sessions and focus group discussions revealing a complex mosaic of hazard impacts and adaptation strategies. Results from more in-depth data analysis will aid discussions concerning alternative adaptation strategies in Cambodia whilst providing examples of approaches that may be applicable to other regions within Asia-Pacific.