Quick facts

  • 16 million people
  • 13.5% living on less than USD $1.90 / day
  • 20.9% of women have experienced intimate partner violence

Cambodia is one of the most beautiful countries in South East Asia but also one of the poorest. More than 50% of the population is less than 25 years old — a legacy of Pol Pot’s regime. Many adults missed out on an education which has led to a lack of productive skills across the country. High unemployment means that making a living is difficult. The effects of this are more pronounced in the remote countryside, which suffers from a lack of basic infrastructure and services.

Oxfam is working in Cambodia to strengthen local civil society and communities to participate in decisions and management around water governance to ensure fair and sustainable usage. Six countries, including Cambodia, depend on the Mekong River region to provide water for agriculture and fishing, energy and supporting bio-diverse ecosystems – their fates are all connected. Oxfam has a long history of supporting rural farming and fishing communities throughout the Mekong region. The area is rich in natural resources but there are growing concerns that climate change and competing interests in water management are leading to instability and food insecurity, worsening the divide between rich and poor, and making life much harder for rural communities by putting pressure on the natural systems that underpin their livelihoods and well-being.

Key areas of work

Social Accountability and Governance

One story of change


Sopheak is a lyrical opponent of the illegal logging, land grabs, pollution, deforestation and unsustainable fishing that she sees in her community. “One of the main concerns is losing tons of fish in the river,” Sopheak says, noting that fish was more affordable and plentiful in the past. With Oxfam’s support, Sopheak teaches people in her village to protect the Mekong.

“I will keep informing them about fishery issues and how to conserve the fish for the next generation,” she says. “I will work hard to inform and persuade them to love the river and protect our resources.” Sopheak tells women they are more than nurturers in the home; they also have a responsibility to protect the Mekong.

Undeterred by the attack, Sopheak says, “No matter what happens to me, if I am still alive I will devote my life to protect the Mekong River and forests.” Oxfam’s partner, the Northeast Rural Development (NRD), is training people like Sopheak to stand up to corporations who threaten their natural resources, by demanding they be consulted about development projects that affect them. Known as the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), it is a powerful tool for communities to be heard.

“NRD empowered me and other to be leaders,” Sopheak says. “The FPIC principle helps me speak more confidently, and raise questions when talking with local authorities.”

Inclusion Pillar Project

Oxfam Australia is working to increase the inclusion of civil society in water resource governance and decision-making in the Mekong region (Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos). Through this project Oxfam Australia is strengthening local civil society and communities to participate in decisions and management around water. The Inclusion Pillar Project is part of Oxfam Australia’s Mekong Regional Water Governance program. This $9 million five year project (2014-2019) is part of an Australian aid initiative implemented by Oxfam Australia on behalf of the Australian Government. It is one of four pillar projects within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Mekong Water Resources Program (2014-2018).




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