Protecting the Environment

Working to improve farming practices, including the use of fertilisers and pesticides, and constructing irrigation systems in Cambodia means that CAVAC initiatives involve both opportunities to positively impact the environment as well as potential negative consequences for the environment.

As an Australian Government funded program working in Cambodia, CAVAC has a responsibility to safeguard the environment according to DFAT’s policies and environmental management system whilst also complying with Cambodia’s environmental protection regulations. This includes reducing risks related to natural disasters and preparing for the consequences of climate change.


For farmers to be able to farm effectively now and for future generations, environmental factors such as soil fertility, water availability and biodiversity need to be guaranteed. Farmers also need support to adjust to ever changing conditions due to climate change or other developmental changes such as hydro-electricity impacting water sources. Currently the environmental protection prospects within Cambodia are not encouraging.

The following environmental protection issues are considered significant challenges to agricultural production in Cambodia:

  • Cambodia produces mainly mono-crops such as rice and cassava that deplete the soils quickly especially given present fertilizer practices. These mono-crops are also highly affected by pests and crop diseases. In the absence of well-functioning markets which enable farmers an informed choice of crop protection options, farmers use anything they can find with devastating consequences for Cambodia’s biodiversity.
  • Farmers in Cambodia mainly use traditional seeds, while these seeds were appropriate for past conditions; they are not necessarily the most effective choices for present or future conditions. A diverse market for rice seed is only very slowly emerging.


CAVAC initiatives have been designed with an emphasis on sustainability, which is likely to improve the environmental situation in many ways. A large number of CAVAC’s activities related to increasing access to quality information for rural Cambodians including: information on the optimal application of fertilizer, effective use of modern crop protection and farming practices that require less spraying.

CAVAC also actively promotes development of the whole seed chain, from development of appropriate seed varieties to production and introduction into rural communities. This will enable farmers’ to plant varieties which are best for the conditions they experience and ensure this knowledge and innovation is continued into the future as conditions continue to change.

Within the irrigation sector, CAVAC initiatives will help farmers to be less dependent on rain and may create some readiness for the consequences of climate change.

CAVAC partnerships with organisations such as ACIAR and the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) support increasing innovation for agricultural technologies which strengthen environmental protection in Cambodia. CAVAC’s collaboration with ACIAR supports large research initiatives on seed varieties, on farm water management and other modern farming practices and CAVAC supports both the RGC and a local university to develop recommendations for the proper application of pesticides.


From the design phase CAVAC has identified and accounted for environmental issues in program activities. Key risks for CAVAC activities are mainly related to the construction of irrigation schemes and the accompanied increased production. Prevention of negative environmental impact has been incorporated into the CAVAC designs in the following ways:

Construction and Rehabilitation of Schemes

  • For all construction activities, CAVAC involves external international experts to commission Environmental Impact Assessments in line with both Cambodian and Australian requirements. In some cases it decides that the potential environmental risks are too high to continue and in other cases it implements a mitigation plan.
  • Schemes are only selected for existing agricultural land and never for new agricultural plots.

Sound Water Resource Management

  • Irrigation schemes: CAVAC minimises the impact of farmers’ growing demand for water through a combination of water conservation design measures and management initiatives that maximise the productivity of the water used and reduce waste. For this CAVAC initiated, in collaboration with ACIAR,a large on farm water management research project. CAVAC ensures that environmentally sound water use is sustained by building the capacity of the Farmer Water User Committees (FWUCs) to effectively manage and maintain the irrigation systems.
  • Watershed management: CAVAC works with national and provincial officials to ensure that new irrigation schemes do not negatively affect upstream or downstream sources of water.

Improved Pest Management

  • Increased production of rice may subsequently lead to increased application of out-dated techniques and overuse of toxic substances. CAVAC works to reduce the use of harmful pesticides and the overuse of higher quality pest control products by educating suppliers on product content and sound pest management options.


CAVAC has developed a detailed Environmental Management System (EMS) to address these issues whilst complying with the relevant Cambodian and Australian policies and laws. The EMS integrates environmental management throughout the program, ensuring that CAVAC’s initiatives deliver environmentally sound and responsible results.

In line with DFAT’s Environmental Management Guidelines for Australia’s Aid Program, CAVAC applies its multi-step environmental safeguarding process to all program activities. This results in a well-documented, comprehensive set of reviews, assessments, remedies and follow-up management actions.

The following steps are followed for each activity as outlined by the EMS:

  1. Initial Environmental Assessment: Screening and Scoping;
  2. Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA);
  3. Development and implementation of Environmental Management Plan (EMP) including monitoring requirements; and
  4. Monitoring and evaluation.

Each intervention is screened at the design phase to ascertain any possible impacts on the environment using a checklist formulated using international best practice guidelines. If environmental impact is suspected an EIA is conducted in order to analyse the risks and potential impacts and outline recommendations for continuation of the activity. Before activity implementation an EMP is developed to ensure recommendations from the EIA are followed and to guide routine monitoring.


Effective compliance with national and DFAT environmental safeguarding regulations requires an extensive program of monitoring, both of CAVAC’s environmental safeguarding systems and implementation of the individual environmental management plans for each initiative. At the same time, CAVAC remains vigilant for the occurrence of unforeseen environmental impacts, both positive and negative.

CAVAC has integrated comprehensive monitoring systems and processes at all stages throughout the program, which enables efficient, effective follow-up and documentation of its overall performance. More importantly, it ensures that each initiative is efficiently tracked and continually evaluated and adjusted to meet environmental safeguarding requirements.


Consistent implementation of the EMS in all project initiatives is an integral responsibility of each CAVAC staff member. Staff are supported in this by a full-time, locally engaged Environmental Specialist and an international Environmental Safeguarding Consultant, under overall supervision of the Team Leader and General Manager of CAVAC. The CAVAC Environmental Specialist ensures timely, consistent implementation of the environmental safeguarding system and that the entire process is duly documented and environmental safeguarding activities are properly recorded. A database has been developed to manage and plan the environmental safeguarding activities, as well as to plan for compliance monitoring and evaluation.




CAVAC: technical brief on protecting the enviroment