Cambodia’s earth guardian

Meet Phearanich Hing, Climate Change Policy Analyst, UNDP Cambodia

Climate Champion Phearanich dreamed about protecting the planet since her childhood.

In one sentence, what do you do at UNDP?

As an officer for UNDP’s “Boots on the Ground” programme, I help the Cambodian government devote resources (financial and technical) to address climate change challenges in the country.

How does your specific project change the lives of people in the developing world?

Cambodia is highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change — especially droughts and floods.

Climate change has caused a shift in rainfall patterns and quantity. As a result, there is less surface water — which we use in everyday life — in rivers, streams and ground water. A lack of water means crops are harder to grow, and people are more susceptible to health problems. It has negative impacts on everyone, but especially small-scale farmers who depend on water to grow their produce.

My work helps improve the water supply for local communities by building irrigation systems, providing solar-powered water pumps, introducing crops and agricultural techniques that can withstand drought, and restoring ecosystems. I also work closely with local communities to find alternative ways of earning an income, like ecotourism, animal-raising, and vegetable growing. Solutions like this help boost local water supplies and allow locals to cope with water shortages more effectively. This then helps secure access to food in the long term, and also leads to better sanitation.

Tell us about a community member you’ve met who has benefited from this project.

Ms. Hout’s family is one of 600 families that now benefit from improved access to water.

Khem Hout is someone I will never forget. Every day, Ms. Hout used to walk four kilometers to collect water for drinking, cooking and washing. Today, her house is connected to a pipe system from a nearby waterfall. That means her family benefits from running water and can now use their own toilet, bathe themselves regularly and grow vegetables and raise pigs in the backyard to supplement the household income.

This project not only helped Ms. Hout’s family, but about 600 other families in Chambok, who now are connected to water. It’s a great example that showcases how climate action can result in other social and economic benefits. And it’s inspired me to continue exploring local solutions that have real and long-lasting impacts on people’s lives.

If you were president of a climate-vulnerable country in your region, what’s one thing you would do to minimize the threat of climate change?

Improving access to water also benefits health and food security.

My first priority would be to protect the ecosystem. Ecosystems purify the air we breathe and the water we drink. They maintain the quality of the soil that our crops grow on, and they provide safety and refuge to people when disasters strike.

As a child, what did you want to be when you ‘grew up’?

As a child, I watched a lot of National Geographic documentaries about our planet. I always dreamed about protecting our precious world. Today, I’m fulfilling my dream!

What was your first-ever job? How did you end up working in climate change?

Before joining UNDP, I analyzed the impacts of environmental changes on people’s lives. Through my research, I talked to many people who were suffering because the natural resources around them were depleted. That knowledge has come in handy in my current position at UNDP — I can use it to develop concrete actions to solve the problems local communities face because of climate change.

What’s one action that people can take in their everyday lives to minimize the risk of climate change?

Water scarcity is a huge problem for local communities. Solar water pumps improve peoples’ lives.

Consume local products. That helps minimize the carbon emissions usually generated from production and distribution.

My colleagues would describe me as…

…a trusted person to go to if you need effective climate change solutions in Cambodia.

By 2030, I want to live in a world that…

…is greener, equitable and resilient.

By: Mirja Neumann