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Community climate resilience in Cambodia

Jacobson, C.
Environmental research 2020 v.186 pp. 109512
climate, climate change, commodity markets, community development, developing countries, education, environmental quality, infrastructure, land degradation, livelihood, longitudinal studies, ownership, planning, Cambodia
Building resilience is a critical response to climate change. Developing countries are the most vulnerable to climate change, yet planning rarely considers how broader community development interventions can enhance resilience and support development. One solution is resilience assessment. However, few assessment frameworks exist that are sufficiently simple to empower communities to build resilience and take ownership of adaptation efforts. This article provides an example of a 27-question framework applied with two Cambodian communes (communities) to assess and understand trends in resilience over time. It is structured around community development outcomes of economic development, environmental quality, infrastructure that matches demands, community self-reliance and capacity to adapt to climate change; it also assesses how inputs and planning contribute to these outcomes. Longitudinal analyses reveal improvements over time driven primarily by commodity values. However, the sustainability of some of these improvements is questionable given volatile commodity markets and land degradation. Oversensitivity in the assessment is acknowledged as awareness increases over time, which can be conflated with poor performance. Maladaptive pathways may be unavoidable without building resilience by attending to broader community development issues, e.g. psychological wellbeing and education on alternative livelihoods. This article makes a significant contribution to community resilience by providing a simple resilience assessment framework that has demonstrably empowered communes to adapt to change. It is novel in the use of assessment design and process principles that build reflection on the drivers of resilience and development. Critical issues remain in the power dynamics of aid dependence, weakening of family bonds and patron-client relationships that affect resilience building in Cambodia.