Breaking the Cycle of Poverty and Pain

The community of Chong Khneas is located on the shores of the Tonle Sap lake. Fields of green hem the tea colored waters that have been a life line to the people who live along its banks. The lake supported a vibrant fishery and its beauty drew tourists.

But now the community struggles.

It residents talk about a host of problems, livelihoods have shrunk, poverty persists, and the elders say youth no longer stay put, drawn to cities in search of better work and more money.

At an event hosted by the UNDP, ASEAN and China on localizing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), residents talked about the need for sustainable development, exchanging ideas with conference participants.

Residents say they want help in developing tourism. The lake that was once filled with fish is now depleted, due to illegal fishing, such as fishing with hand grenades. They also blame the lack of fish on the loss of flooded forest that used to be habitat for fish. Now most fisherman have been forced to look for new jobs to eke out a living.

Another issue was land ownership.

Now most of them live on houses built on stilts on the water, since they don’t own the land. The houses on stilts cannot withstand strong winds that come with the monsoon season — but now more random due to climate change. They cause havoc blowing down homes, and leaving people without shelter. Residents want houses built on land, so that they can access public services, such as health, education and water, and also have easier access to better jobs.

The goal of the field visit was to provide conference participants exposure to issues vital to rural communities.

The discussion centered around how local government could better deliver public services and provide the community with more resources to help improve their lives. One key issue: how to facilitate engagement between such communities and the private sector, to enable better access to markets and improve living conditions and livelihoods.

A key message during the interactions was to tap into innovation to come up with solutions through engagement with people in the community. And to come up with approaches on how to integrate marginalized populations, with the goal of leaving no one behind.


Story and photos by Bulganchimeg Bayasgalant, Mailee Osten-Tan, Kamal Raj Sigdel, Ian Mungall, and Cedric Monteiro, UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub.