For two years, farmers in Chrey Commune in Cambodia’s Battambang province had been frustrated as their rice production decreased because of a lack of water. Now, they have lush rice crops after local authorities responded to a radio program’s call for an increase in irrigation water to the region.
With the help of Media Engagement Specialist May Titthara from Internews, local citizen journalist Ban Theara wrote a story about the farmers’ complaints and sent it to the provincial radio station Battambang 92.70FM, advocating for the issue to be raised with the relevant authorities on their program Talkback on Good Governance.
Local authorities were invited to discuss the issue live on air and within two days of the program airing on radio, and being re-shared many times over social media, water releases increased from three times a week to five or seven. Farmers living further downstream now receive enough water for their crops and there is an increase in rice production.
Battambang farmer Mr. Sarom is happy with the increased flow. He says there is now enough water for general use and irrigating crops. “People living in the area would like to thank all the relevant authorities for helping,” he said.
In the long-term, local authorities are seeking assistance from the national government to build another dam to store more water for irrigation in Battambang.
As a citizen journalist, Theara has become a regular advocate for the farmers, regularly checking in to monitor the irrigation water supply and following up on a potential new dam. He is also following other community issues and opportunities to improve the lives of Battambang locals, posting reports on his own Facebook page on education, roads, and trash collection. Internews trains, mentors and builds connections between citizen journalists and professional media, helping citizen journalists like Theara capture more attention for local issues with the relevant authorities.
Partnering with community journalists like Theara is part of the USAID-funded program Innovations for Social Accountability in Cambodia, implemented in partnership with FHI360 and Internews, with the goal of increasing the demand for social accountability by empowering citizens to express their opinion and motivating local authorities to respond with improved service delivery.