In rural Cambodia, backyard fish farms answer food insecurity

fish farm in Cambodia
Mr. Say Sorn and his wife, Yi Sinuon, feed fish they raise in the backyard of their house in Siem Reap province. Photo: Alejandro Boza/ UNDP Cambodia

In the past, when he needed fish for his wife to cook, Say Sorn used to cast a net in the canal of his village, in the Siem Reap Province in northwestern Cambodia. These days he can just get it right from his backyard, currently occupied by a giant water filtration tank, hatching containers, and 12 fish ponds holding altogether about three tons of fish.

Say Sorn ventured on this project six years ago, when he noticed fish stock dwindling in the Cambodian river systems. The reasons, he thinks, are the increase in the country’s population and illegal methods used by many fishermen.


  • Cambodia is ranked among the top 10 countries facing the highest risk for climate change impacts.
  • Approximately US $10.8 million has been committed for implementation of the CCCA Programme by 2015.
  • 20 grants have been provided to various line ministries, local government and civil society organisations working to build community resilience in tackling climate change.

“More and more I was able to make little catch. There were days when I couldn’t catch any fish at all,” he says.

The 73-year-old man used to earn a living from repairing motorcycles and part of his responsibility as a breadwinner was to catch fish, the main source of protein for Cambodians.

“My fear is that there may not be many fish left in the river to catch in the future,” he says.

Initially, he knew nothing about raising fish. None of the fingerlings he bought from a local market to release into a pond at home survived because the water was too murky.

He did not give up, and his persistence got the attention of Cambodia’s Fisheries Administration, supported by the Cambodia Climate Change Alliance – a programme funded by the EU, Sweden, Denmark and UNDP.  Say Sorn soon got a training in sustainable fish farming, part of a broader government strategy designed to enable rural families to increase food security and income and adapt better to impacts of climate change.

The programme supports capacity building and institutional strengthening and provides grants to various line ministries, local government and civil society organizations working to build community resilience in tackling climate change. So far, 20 projects receive support from the programme's Trust Fund, the climate-resilient fishery projects being one of them.

Today, Say Sorn’s sophisticated fish raising facility is a positive model of how family fish breeding can help ensure food security for the rural population in Cambodia. The 12 ponds in his farm hold about three tons of carp, tilapia and African catfish. From their sales he is able to make an average income of US $150 a month to support his family of five.

Last year, using his savings, he bought two bicycles for his granddaughters to ride to school and a computer to help them in their studies. Say Sorn also actively shares technical information about fish farming with other villagers: “I have so far taught about 200 people in fish hatching and nursing techniques,” he says.

With his advancing age though, Say Sorn added that one day he will retire for good. But one of his two granddaughters, Say Danou, 18, is ready to carry on his legacy.

“This is already our family’s business and, if I can, I will make the farm even bigger in the future,” she says.

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