Cambodia: How better farming practices lead to better lives

Riem in her food garden with two of her sons

Cambodian mother of five, Riem Soun, is changing her family’s life. It all began when her rice field was selected to be CARE’s demonstration plot as part of a project promoting better farming practices.

"We feel very happy to see the result of the demonstration plot. We see a big change in the yield. With our customary techniques our yield was very low," she explains. Even better, her field has served as a demonstration to the whole community – allowing other farming families to adopt the same techniques.

Beneath Riem’s single-room home, which leans haphazardly, raised on stilts, there is a shiny, red, motorised hand plough.

The 55 year-old mother saved for the plough for four years, using the profits their rice as well as selling some pigs and cows. The rice has doubled in yield using the methods she has learnt from CARE. "We can buy this plough because the yield from last year’s rice production was plenty," she says.

‘Plenty’ is modest. Last year Riem produced five tonnes of rice. But she doesn’t want to stop there.

"Now we have the plough, we plan to produce more rice," she says with quiet determination.

A better future

The money Riem makes all goes towards a better future for her family. Their fields are the most productive in the community, yet they do not own anything above the basic necessities. Alongside increasing production, the extra income has gone into and giving her children the opportunity to go to school.

Through her participation in the project, Riem has also learnt how to establish and maintain a home vegetable garden. She has started two large garden plots sprawling around her home.

"I learnt about land preparation, and planting seedlings and the number of seedlings to plant. It has helped our family to have enough food, and also helped to provide the opportunity for the children to go to school.

"Before, even my small children would accompany me to help find food in the forest. Since CARE came to the village, and we have a garden near our house, we can collect food easily. Now, all of my children go to school."

Riem Soun shares some of her surplus seeds with her neighbours, and has taken on the responsibility of teaching them how to plant new varieties. They often wander over to her garden to see how it works.

The family are also learning from her new skills. The garden benefits all of them. "My family want to follow me and learn from me. The whole family works in the garden."

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