Friday, March 5, 2010

Keynote Address at the Groundbreaking Ceremony for the Kong Hort Irrigation System Development Project

Tuol Andet Village, Chaeng Meanchey Commune, Banan District, Battambang

Your Venerable Monks,

Your Excellency ZHANG JIN FENG, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of China to Cambodia,

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen distinguished national and international guests,

Dear all the Compatriots,

It is my pleasure to be here with venerable monks, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, especially with H.E. ZHANG JIN FENG, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of China to Cambodia in the “Groundbreaking Ceremony for the Kong Hort Irrigation System Development Project” located in Tuol Andet Village, Chaeng Meanchey Commune, Banan District, Battambang Province. First of all, please allow me to congratulate all the people living in and around this area who will benefit from another new achievement, that is the Kong Hort irrigation system which will be constructed under the Republic of China’s Preferential Buyer’s Credit. Taking this opportunity, I would like to once again extend my sincerest regards to all the people in Battambang.

I would also like to take this opportunity to extend my appreciation to the management and officials of the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, related ministries/institutions and local authorities that have worked hard to enable the development of Kong Hort Irrigation System, a key component of the agricultural strategy and the core of socio-economic development and poverty reduction strategy. Also, I highly value the close relationship between the People’s Republic of China and Cambodia, in particular, China has assisted us both in terms of grants and concessional loans and what we see now is just one of many others. The Government of the People’s Republic of China has encouraged its people and investors to visit and invest in Cambodia to promote mutual cooperation and Cambodia’s development progress. This is indeed a big contribution to Cambodia’s socio-economic development. In this sense, I would like to again and again kindly request H.E. ZHANG JIN FENG to forward Cambodia’s deepest gratitude to the people and Government of the People’s Republic of China who have been instrumental in Cambodia’s development, especially the development of physical infrastructure.

Kong Hort Irrigation System will indeed complement the existing infrastructure to irrigate rice fields and farms and facilitate local travel. This achievement indeed stems from the Royal Government’s firm policy prioritizing the construction, maintenance and effective management of irrigation systems and water reservoirs. To implement this, the Royal Government has made a substantial investment and mobilized resources from donors and development partners to develop irrigation systems to ensure effectiveness, sustainability and broad coverage of irrigation systems so that farmers’ crops will be sufficiently irrigated and the productivity and income will be improved to attain food security and poverty reduction. The Royal Government has indeed invested heavily on maintenance and reconstruction of its infrastructure, both in the economic and social sector, including schools, hospitals, pagodas, roads and bridges, ports, airports and so forth. Among the above, the maintenance and construction of all kinds of irrigation system are prioritized, reflecting the Royal Government’s priority policy, i.e. “Water, Road, Electricity, Human”. Furthermore, the government still considers rehabilitation and development of irrigation infrastructure as key priority of strategic nature to support policy for pacifization and integration of rural economy into urban economy, which is prerequisite to achieving strategic goals of poverty reduction and Cambodia Millennium Development Goals (CMDGs), as well as to ensure macroeconomic stability for Cambodia. In this sense, I strongly believe that Kong Hort Irrigation system which is to be inaugurated in just moment will definitely help to raise livelihood and banish poverty of our people, particularly for people of this localities, which ultimately leads to make achievement of spirit of Rectangular Strategy Phase II of the government of the fourth legislature of national assembly i.e. Growth, Employment, Equity and Efficiency in Cambodia. On behalf of the government and myself, I would like to hand over this new “Kong Hort Irrigation system” to be owned by all people in Battam Bang Province, especially people in Banan and Sangke district to make farming and to take benefit from this great heritage in order to raise livelihood to another level in the future.

According to report by H.E Lim Kean Hor, minister of water resources and meteorology, as result from great attention and effort of the government, we see that by end of 208 Cambodian irrigation system can cover 1.120.246 hectares of agricultural land which is equivalent to 43.97% of total agricultural land expanding about 2.547.402 hectares, and irrigability goes up as much as 49.72% if we compare to 2.253.000 hectares of agricultural land of in 1967. This point indicates first ever in history new record of irrigatability of Cambodia. Obviously in 2009, these achievements enabled Cambodia to produce million tons of rice for domestic demand and remaining over 3 million tons for export even though we had experienced flood due to Typhoon Ketsana and drought. The rice yields clearly demonstrate that Cambodia already started turning away from agriculture by chance which totally relies on nature. In parallel, in 2010 the government will commence new 16 projects; of which some will target reservoir, some will target water blocking and water distribution channel, some will target relief, and some will target prevention of flood and sea water. The total cost of all projects is 79.136 million Riel. All these projects will complementarily satisfy the needs of our farmers in 13 provinces: Kampong Speu, Banteay Meanchey, Prey Veng, Battam Bang, Ta Keo, Kampot, Kampong Cham, Kampong Thom, Kandal, Pusat, Uddor Meanchey and Koh Kong. According their appraisals, these projects can irrigate agriculture land in both dry and rainy season about 50,000 hectares of land and directly benefit about 40,000 families. These tasks have been formulated and implemented to promote agriculture sectors and raise livelihood of our farmers.

Separately, Kong Hort Irrigation system development project whose construction site is to be inaugurated in a moment will extend coverage of agriculture land. Purposively, Kong Hort Irrigation system development project is capable of irrigating agriculture land up to 34,300 hectares and allow for farming twice a year. Embedded in those projects, there are big and small canals of 41 lines extending over 332.6 kilometers, one dyke (crossing Sangke river), 63 small and large civil accessory infrastructures, sidewalks along canals stretching 101, 06 kilometers and road for transporting yields of 94,07 kilometers, which is 195,13 kilometer long in total. These will cost 61 million US dollars and take 40 months. Through this we see that Kong Hort Irrigation system development project provides countless benefits. Indeed, this project not only promotes agriculture sector, prevents a number of natural disasters and strengthen and expand transportation, but also is priority sector in policy platform of the government in goal of internal integration of Cambodia. Along with prideful result and achievement, the government are clearly aware that there remains many duties for which we have to jointly prepare and implement productively and efficiently rehabilitation and development of physical infrastructure, particularly hegemonization of irrigation system which enables us to maximize use of arable land of agriculture potential, to help increase supply of food and lead to achieve vision that Cambodia becoming rice exporting country in the region to meet the world’s demand.

Without any doubt, Cambodia is an agriculture country with around 80% of the population live in the rural area as famers. In this sense, the hegemonization of irrigation system on existing systems and those newly built ones at those areas with strong water potential is the most important priority task for the development of Cambodia’s agriculture sector. Through the efforts made by the Royal Government so far, in which the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has always closely cooperated with other ministries/institutions, especially the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology (MOWRAM), development partners for the cause of building irrigation system to be more extensive, covering the cultivated land, overcoming the shortage of the water to serve the cultivation and agricultural production, especially food production, which is the task ahead, makes us feel optimistic that until 2013 our irrigation system will be able to water about 70% of the total cultivated land. At the same time, we have also strengthened capacity building and ownership of the water-user community in various localities aiming to ensure consistency and sustainability of the sources and supply of the water, required for agricultural development. Moreover, the Royal Government has created the universal information system management, water information related to all river basins in order to observe and manage all existing irrigation systems to be a more sustainable irrigation system, hydro-electrical power, clean water supply, and flood and drought management in order to maintain the position of environment and ecological system.

With these proud achievements, the Royal Government still continues to consider investment on construction and modernization of the irrigation infrastructure as the prioritized goals for the development of agriculture in Cambodia as well as the foundation to ensure the threat from the climate change, resulting in natural disasters such as drought, flood…etc Furthermore, this work will complement the continual growth of the cultivated land and the growing seasons, which require to have solution to water policy for larger scale watering, that we have to ensure sustainability of water source, strengthen and expand the ability of managing, using and distributing water more effectively.

In total, the success of the water policy implementation of the Royal Government requires more active and intensive participation from farmers on the efforts to cultivate and gain maximum interest from the cultivated land and the water policy which is highly paid attention. The Royal Government would like the people, especially all farmers, to continue focusing and strictly abiding by the spirits as follows:

1. Must participate in maintaining these valuable achievements to be long-lasting, in which they must be stick to the ownership, closer and constant cooperation with all competent units and institutions by standing on the responsible spirit and mutual understanding in using this new achievement, meaning that you have to absolutely avoid the conflict arising from the achievable interest. At the same time, I strongly hope that the people who have been impacted by this construction project will truly understand and actively participate in the inter-ministerial committee for resettlement, MOWRAM, local authorities and construction companies in order to achieve this great achievement as planned.

2. Must increase self-awareness on the cultivation work in cultivation or other farming products when there is sufficient water because it could be regretful if there is sufficient water, but there is no cultivation. Therefore, the prosperity of the living of our people is totally depending on the industrious and creative efforts along with what the Royal Government has created.

3. Must implement the intensive farming to become an active and lively movement to be suitable with the efforts made by the Royal Government in implementing the “Hegemonization of Irrigation System Strategy”.

4. Must be stick to the use of Light Rice Seed and Heavy-Light (Middle) Rice Seed in cultivation from now on because practical experiences in recent years have shown that wherever the farmers are still using Heavy Rice Seed based on habit, there will be a shortage of rice at the end of the season there, meaning that when the farmers doing Heavy Rice are worried with looking for water to be irrigated, the Light Rice and Heavy-Light (Middle) Rice Farmers have collected the rice and put into their rice barn already.

5. Must change the characteristic or habit in their own agricultural work with the objective to improve the work and output of their farms because based on the traditional habit even though there is a lot of raining at the beginning of the season the farmers have not started their farm work yet by waiting until May to start sowing, planting. Experience in the rain season of 2009 showed that at the beginning of rainy season in CHES-ASART month there was lots of rain, but the farmers did not start their farm work yet by waiting until SRARP month. This is a good experience that all farmers should remember and should not let it happen again

6. Must continue paying attention to maintain their own cultivated land by growing on their own farms, but avoiding selling cultivated land and then migrate to work oversea, which is very risky.

At the same time, I would like to remind all levels of competent authorities to pay attention and closely cooperate, especially to pave favorable condition in all kinds for the process of Kong Hort Irrigation Development Project to achieve complete success in order to make sure that our people can use water and gain maximum interest from this valuable achievement. Through this I strongly hope that MOWRAM, the Ministry of Economy and Finance, all related ministries/institution and all levels of local authorities will continue by putting utmost mental and physical efforts to closely cooperate to accelerate the process of Kong Hort Irrigation Development Project according to their duties and obligations with high responsibility.

At the end, with the official inauguration of the “Kong Hort Irrigation Development Project” located in in Tuol Andaet Village, Chaeng Meanchey Commune, Banan District, Battambang Province today, I would like wish Venerable Monks, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, National and International Guests, Teachers, Students and all Compatriots the four gems of Buddhist blessings:“Longevity, Nobility, Health and Strength”.

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