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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Cambodia: farmers break with tradition - shyly, not unsuccessfully

On a Canadian staff member’s recent visit to the village of Toul Ankrong in Cambodia, the effectiveness of ‘dry-rice’ farming was demonstrated to her in a somewhat amusing way.

Farmers practicing the farming techniques that HOPE International Development Agency promotes are apparently so embarrassed about employing non-traditional methods that they occasionally run and hide behind bushes if they see people approaching. She witnessed this behaviour a few times on a walk through the fields surrounding the village.

Despite this, out of a community of forty-four families, only four are opting out - and only because they don’t yet have draft animals. In previous years, families were hungry for most of the year, with smaller yields that only came during the rainy season. Most husbands and fathers were forced to seek temporary employment on the Thai border to make ends meet. But the food supply in Toul Ankgrong has tremendously improved due to these different methods, a new seed variety, and an emerging spirit of collaboration between villagers. This collaboration is best evidenced by the seed bank they built together. This structure houses a supply of seed, deposited by individual farmers, which can be loaned out to other farmers in times of need. Read more about ‘dry rice farming’ - or year-round rice farming.

Villagers were extremely reluctant to try the new seed and farming style, and the break with tradition is still not totally comfortable for them - as the mad dash for cover demonstrates! However, it’s clear that Cambodian families are willing to work through their shyness and hesitancy if they are given options that produce good results.

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