(as prepared for delivery)
● Your Excellency Dr. Hav Viseth, Deputy Director General of the Fisheries Administration, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
● Distinguished guests, development partners, ladies, and gentlemen
It is my pleasure to join you all today to commemorate the completion of the Feed the Future Rice Field Fisheries Project. Our gathering marks the culmination of a successful nine-year collaboration between USAID, the WorldFish Center, the fisheries communities, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, local authorities, and other development partners.
Feed the Future, the US government’s global hunger and food security initiative to reduce hunger and poverty by accelerating agriculture growth, has invested in rice-fish systems around the world. The intervention has improved the sector’s productivity, maximized women’s involvement, and boosted mother and child nutrition, while building resilience to climate change.
As we all know, the seasonal flooded rice fields in the wet season from May to November provide a free nutritious food source to most rural households. Having seen the rice field fisheries systems threatened by overfishing and environmental degradation, the US government’s initiative helps communities adapt to climate change and promote sustainable methods of managing Community Fish Refuges. It also promotes the importance of small fish, dietary diversity, hygienic food preparation, water, and sanitation techniques for families with young children.
In support of these efforts, USAID has implemented Feed the Future and environmental programs over the past nine years in many areas of Cambodia, including the Rice Field Fisheries program in the Tonle Sap areas. Through this project, USAID generated approximately $11 million in net gains from fish production. It also helped over 150,000 Cambodians produce and consume more fish at home.
We are proud of the contributions we have made to biodiversity conservation, community livelihoods, and improved governance as a result of this effort. Through this project, nearly 5,900 hectares of rice fields and 140 Community Fish Refuge ponds have been sustainably managed by local community members. Almost 300,000 people – two thirds of whom are women – have improved economic benefits that come from sustainable natural resource management and biodiversity conservation.
Our support also has fostered environmentally friendly enterprises that are providing jobs and incomes to local communities through the sustainable use of water resources. Equally as important over 120,000 people now have access to safe drinking water in the project areas. The project has also enhanced the participation and ownership of local communities in the management, protection, and sustainable use of natural resources in the Tonle Sap areas. USAID helped community fish refuge committees raise almost $300,000 in cash and $800,000 worth of in-kind contributions such as equipment, materials, and labor for conservation activities. In many ways, this project has helped us learn how to fine tune our development approach to improve the lives of all Cambodians and we will continue to look for similar opportunities in the future.
All year long, the U.S. Embassy is celebrating US-Cambodia relations and during the current quarter we are focusing on the theme of peace and security. Supporting the health and livelihoods of Cambodians while protecting Cambodia’s natural resources is a shared priority and one that speaks directly to these themes.
I would like to conclude my remarks by thanking the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, His Excellency Veng Sakhon, Dr. Hav Viseth, provincial and local authorities, WorldFish Center, NGO partners, the fisheries communities, and other partners for this collaborative effort. This partnership has allowed us to transform our common vision into a model – perhaps THE model – for successful Rice Field Fisheries Systems in Cambodia.
Finally, I want to thank the entire Rice Field Fisheries team for their hard work, creativity, and commitment over the last nine years. You’ve inspired us to do even better.
Thank you very much.