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New farming methods enable Cambodian families to grow more food
Being a farmer, anywhere in the world, is risky business. The success of a crop is dependant on a variety of factors, many of which the farmer cannot control.
In Pursat, Cambodia, rice growers rely on the abundance of surface water during the rainy season for their crops. During the rainy season enough rice must be produced to ensure there is food to last for the year. When there is not enough, families are forced to leave their village during the dry season to engage in poorly paid, often dangerous, labour jobs in a city or along the border with Thailand.
What HOPE International Development Agency donors are supporting:
We are working with Pursat farmers to try new farming approaches that will increase production, and allow families to remain in their communities throughout the year. A new rice variety is being introduced that allows farmers to grow rice during the dry season.
New farming techniques need to be used with this new rice, so training is being provided. Water is needed, so a simple irrigation system is being set up. And finally, seed banks help farmers bridge the gap between growing cycles.
Seed banks are key to the success of this project because seed is necessary for farmers to plant their next cycle of rice, and in times of emergency, to provide food for their families. They work like any other bank - members make contributions in the form of seed that is stored in a rodent-free and secure hut. They may withdrawn this seed with interest at a later date. Farmers benefit by having a safe place to store their valuable seed, and by earning interest in the form of additional seed.
Also, seed banks allow members to take a seed loan in times of need such as a drought, and repay this loan over a manageable period of time.
In villages where HOPE International Development Agency has worked, farmers have increased their rice crops by 270% per year!
Hunger is no longer a problem, and extra rice is being sold for additional income. With this income, families improve their health, send their children to school, and make plans for the future, instead of constantly worrying about day-to-day survival.
Moreover, farmers have significantly lower costs, since 75% fewer seedlings are needed to raise a crop. They also use organic compost, rather than chemical fertilizers and pesticides, to grow Dry Season rice, which is very positive for their environment - and a healthy environment means that rice can continue to be grown in future generations.
Debt as a result of food shortage has also dramatically decreased. Prior to their involvement with Dry Season Rice, cash or rice loans were common for farmers. Farmers report that interest rates from private lenders for cash or rice loans ranged from 50% every six months to 50% every month. Villagers who failed to repay loans have had property confiscated by these private lenders.
Finally, migration for work has decreased by 99%. Happily, fathers are raising enough rice to remain with their families. The quality of life in these villages has been utterly transformed.