Regenerating Fish Harvests in Cambodian Villages

by Trailblazer Cambodia Organization

Cambodia is one of the world’s most climate vulnerable nations.

Cambodian life and culture is perfectly synchronized with the seasonal patterns unchanged for centuries. That’s all up in the air now.

We see how climate change disrupts Earth’s natural cycles. We’ve seen the footage of tropical storms and floods displacing entire communities. We’ve seen heat waves kill thousands, and droughts make water further inaccessible for millions all over the world.  

Cambodia is not yet prepared for the challenges posed by climate change. It needs to build resilience.

Cambodia will need to implement low-tech, affordable solutions in response to changing weather and seasonal patterns, precisely what the Community Fish Refuge accomplishes.    

The Refuge protects fish populations during severe drought seasons. With less monsoon rains, subsistence Cambodians will need to conserve water while reaping the largest possible yields from every square foot of flooded lands. We are there to help these communities regenerate their fish harvests.  

The COP21 meetings in Paris and the agreements by world leaders are important for protecting long-forgotten rural communities like those found in Cambodia. Should the world become less habitable, the first to suffer are these communities that have long lived off the land in relative harmony for thousands of years.

Please get involved today and give rural Cambodians the chance to secure their own futures. 

CFR Meeting 1
CFR Meeting 1

The Community Fish Refuge (CFR) Committee is quite conscious about preserving their precious asset.  And rightly so!  The Committee intends to make the CFR sustainable and thus has engaged in brainstorming sessions with the local authority for ways to better communicate with both the public and private sectors to best support CFR’s action plans. As a productive entity, they want to acquire the skills to enhance capacity, increase fish harvest and improve their livelihoods overall.

In addition to training requests, the CFR Committee aims to expand the CFR, implement efficient canal/channel flows for fish migration, increase general awareness of fishery laws, and educate on the disadvantages of pesticide use.  But above all, they wish to protect their fisheries.  What better way to do so than to convert a careless citizen into an ambassador? 

Recently, the CFR Committee has implemented a patrolling schedule for the members to look after their ponds day and night.  Unfortunately, some Cambodians fish illegally in the CFR zone sometimes unknowingly, sometimes out of desperation.  The formation of these patrolling teams has reduced unlawful fishing, but more importantly convinced many villagers that taking part in the CFR philosophy could enhance their lives and strengthen their community. 

In August 2014, the Fisheries Administration office in conjunction with TCO conducted a CFR election and Mr. Vorn Heam, a villager in the Bantoat Bosh Village, was appointed as the Deputy Chief of the CFR Committee.  Even though Mr. Heam was a former wrongdoer, he now has the opportunity to productively give back to his community and has transformed himself into a beacon of hope for the entire village and surrounding areas. 

Mr. Heam has now internalized the benefits of the CFR methodology and has been a critical player in protecting the CFR ever since.  He has taken an active role in patrolling the fisheries and has become one of the most influential ambassadors of the system.  He attends Committee meetings, studies best practices, and spreads the word wide.  His commitment to patrolling the ponds is truly admirable.  This simple story demonstrates how a man can indeed change for the better and improve his community through civil engagement.

Below are a few snapshots of the Trapeang Phluous CFR Committee’s most recent meeting.  Enjoy, and thank you once again for your support in this revolutionary philosophy.  

CFR Meeting 2
CFR Meeting 2
CFR Meeting 3
CFR Meeting 3
CFR Logo
CFR Logo

January is election season in Santey Village. Citizens of Santey assemble to discuss open posts and nominations. Ballots are collected (one per household) and counted to determine the winning candidates. 

This year’s ticket has an opening for the role of managing food security for the entire village – Head of the Community Fish Refuges (CFR) Committee. With the ballots counted, we are proud to share that Pheun Sophin was confirmed the new Head of the CFR Committee.

Pheun has ambitious plans for the community’s fish ponds. Since the CFR project launch in June 2014, 240 households have reported increased household income with bounties from the Community Fish Refuge. Pheun wants to build on these successes by:

      1. Mobilizing Santey villagers to expand the CFR by 300 Meters2.

      2. Stocking the CFR with more fingerlings to increase fish harvests

      3. Building a boat with local materials to visit migrating fish populations.

If these goals are reached, two more villages will benefit from the CFR harvests. That’s almost 500 families on their way to lasting food security.

Since his appointment, Pheun has extended many thanks to the Trailblazer Cambodia Organization for their assistance getting this project off the ground and to the international donors that provided financial support over the last eight months. As Santey village assumes full management of the CFR project, Pheun asks if he can count on us for continued support.

We have raised our fundraising goal to $10,000. Please consider continuing your support to help Santey citizens reach their goal to end the cycle of malnutrition for not only themselves, but for their neighbors too.

This project is about much more than fish ponds – it is about the long-forgotten North Cambodian villages coming together through self-governance, ambitious planning, and community resource management to realize food security.


A village workshop presents a unique opportunity. Work for villagers is unending, and there is limited free time. So when 150 Cambodian villagers congregate in one space, it becomes a truly momentous, even humbling experience. It is a rare occasion to explain to Santey Villagers that if we work together, we can all escape the cycle of poverty, and turn malnutrition into something of the past.

The great thing about developing Community Fish Refuges (CFR) is not just the fish harvests, but the atmosphere which surrounds it. Santey village now understands that in order to succeed, each member will need to pitch in.

  • 25 women have been volunteered to lead weekly CFR committee meetings, and 24 mothers have been placed in charge of addressing village nutrition
  • 25 households have been trained to assess drinking water quality, and to teach their neighbors this method
  • 150 village men and women attend regular workshops on natural resource management and sustainable best practices

Village children are beginning to watch their communities transform into a single, unified force to achieve self-sufficiency.

Our donors deserve a round of applause for having shown such an abundance of kindness for our projects in Northern Cambodia. In Santey Village, 240 households report that their household incomes have increased from bounties from the Community Fish Refuge. That means that 1,000 Cambodians are paving the way to elevate themselves from subsistence living. 

And much like the villagers of Santey, our work also never ends. We are in the process of developing a soap-recycling project which will increase sanitation in schools, orphanages, and village communities. Stay tuned.

No easy trek to Santey, a village in isolation
No easy trek to Santey, a village in isolation

Dearest Supporters, 

Trailblazers Cambodia Organization (TCO), and Santey Village would like to express their gratitude. With your generosity, we were able to win the open challenge. 

Santey villagers have said that it is hard for them to comprehend that people across the globe, complete strangers, are aware of their existence and plight. It may have been a trivial process on your end, but you have set in motion a process that will benefit their community for years to come. 

Besides winning the challenge, what is most important is that we were able to begin our work with food security in Santey Village.  Once the Community Fish Refuge is constructed, and training courses are completed--it will be time to hand over the reigns to Santey villagers. This is the new face of non-profit work. NGOs will not be around forever, and the day will come where village communites must rise to the occasion. We provide the tools, research, and support to prepare villagers for that day. 

On another note, top researchers from WorldFish came to Santey to observe our work in the community, bringing with them intriguing new ideas for operation. Leadership for CFR operation now includes several women, and the younger citizens of Santey. Students were even encouraged to take a break from listening to their radio playing Khmer-dubbed US pop songs and World Cup updates, to join us for a session covering issues in the community. 

Enough for now, but once more, thanks to all who have contributed to our efforts. Check back in soon for more updates from the field. 

WorldFish reps from Malaysia/France/India/Canada
WorldFish reps from Malaysia/France/India/Canada

About Project Reports

Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.

If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating.

Get Reports via Email

We'll only email you new reports and updates about this project.

Organization Information

Trailblazer Cambodia Organization

Location: Siem Reap, Siem Reap Province - Cambodia
Website: http:/​/​​
Trailblazer Cambodia Organization
Samir Lakhani
Project Leader:
Samir Lakhani
Siem Reap, Siem Reap Province Cambodia

Retired Project!

This project is no longer accepting donations.

Still want to help?

Find another project in Cambodia or in Environment that needs your help.
Find a Project

Learn more about GlobalGiving

Teenage Science Students
Vetting +
Due Diligence


Woman Holding a Gift Card
Gift Cards

Young Girl with a Bicycle

Sign up for the GlobalGiving Newsletter

WARNING: Javascript is currently disabled or is not available in your browser. GlobalGiving makes extensive use of Javascript and will not function properly with Javascript disabled. Please enable Javascript and refresh this page.