Lao PDR and Cambodia are among the most vulnerable countries to climate change in Asia. Their vulnerability arises out of a combination of socio-economic factors (very low institutional and community capacity to adapt) and their high exposure to climate risks (flooding in floodplain areas of the Mekong basin; increased drought frequency more generally). Another feature is their dependence on large areas of rainfed, rice-based cropping systems to provide the mainstay of food security. This is in contrast to fully irrigated rice-based cropping systems in other rice-producing countries (e.g. Vietnam, Thailand, Bangladesh), which have a much lower inherent risk of crop failure because of more certain access to irrigation water. Rice is the main staple crop in both Lao PDR and Cambodia. With a forecast increase in the variability of the frequency and of the timing of rainfall through the wet season, rainfed farming systems are challenged not only to maintain productivity in an environment of global change, but also to increase rice production to match expected population growth.
The ACIAR-funded project Developing multi-scale climate change adaptation strategies for farming communities in Cambodia, Laos, Bangladesh and India (LWR/2008/019; the ACCA project) was initiated to build adaptive capacity in rural communities in Lao PDR and Cambodia (and in India and Bangladesh) by demonstrating successful, locally relevant adaptation options to climate change. Under the ACCA project successful wet season field trials in 2011 and 2012 identified that the use of mechanised rice establishment tools in Lao PDR and Cambodia had potential to reduce farmers’ exposure to climate risks, improve farmers’ adaptive capacity and were locally appropriate and attractive interventions. These comprised wet seeding onto puddled soil using drum seeders imported from Indonesia and Vietnam in Cambodia, and dry direct seeding using a power-tiller mounted drill machine to direct seed rice into field moist, tilled soils, mainly in Lao PDR.
The ACCA-SRA was developed to ensure a continuation of wet season on-farm testing of mechanised rice establishment options in Lao PDR and Cambodia and to provide opportunities to refine these methods of rice establishment in order to reduce exposure to climate risks in rainfed lowland rice producing environments.