For villagers trying to make a living in Koh Kong, Cambodia, their future has been looking uncertain.
Frequent storms have destroyed the coastal mangroves which shelter villages - exposing residents to extreme storms, eradicating fish and marine stocks, as well as encroaching on previously fertile farmland with salt water. For the people living here, these storms are a danger to themselves and their incomes, forcing many to migrate abroad or move away from their homes to work in garment factories.
Twelve-year-old Ma En is no stranger to storms. She lives with her aunt an hour’s boat ride from the village where she was born, and where her parents live as fishermen. She can only visit her family 3-4 times a month because of the unpredictable weather. She is particularly scared of the strong winds, lightning and sea surges her community faces. Travelling in these conditions is very risky for the people living here, as few know how to swim and life jackets are rarely used.
Ma En has been learning about the conditions her community faces through Save the Children’s programme in Koh Kong. She has learnt that she can help reduce risks faced by her community, by planting more mangrove trees. With more mangroves her community will face fewer disasters, as they reduce the danger of sea surges, absorb rain water, protect the community from storms and strong winds, reduce soil erosion, and conserve the fish and marine life people depend on for their food and income.
En has been sharing her newfound knowledge of how to stay safe with her friends, relatives and people within the community. She can see the changes in behaviour already. Many people now keep flotation devices at home and in their boats, and people are aware of when it is too dangerous to go out in boats.
“My parents used to encounter storms when they were fishing. It destroyed their things, food, fishing tools, and boat. It was lucky that my parents were not seriously injured. Now, they will not go fishing when the sky is dark and cloudy with strong winds.”
Save the Children’s programme in Koh Kong is teaching children to engage with their local environments through research and critical thinking, helping them gain invaluable life-skills for a more sustainable future.
For Ma En, in keeping up with her newfound position as a community educator, she dreams of becoming a primary school teacher when she grows up. We can’t wait to see what Ma En achieves for herself, and for her community!