Written by Eryn Austin-Bergen | Interview by Mr. Lun, Project Officer for Food Security and Livelihoods
When selling home-grown vegetables is your bread and butter, it’s no small thing to run out of the fertilizer that makes them grow big and juicy. Or for a pest to devour your spinach and cabbage crops. Or to have hang-ups getting freshly cut produce to market on time.
These (and a hundred more!) are the worries that keep small scale farmers like Ry Lai awake at night.
“Because my family depends on vegetable farming only, once our vegetables are destroyed by pests, it negatively impacts my family’s source of income,” Ry Lai explains.
Their main source of income, agriculture, was not very profitable and couldn’t really support the family.
Ry Lai and his wife Roung Ran live with their three children in the rural community of Bet Phkar in Svay Leu, Cambodia. In the past, they generally kept to themselves, Ry Lai preferring not to get involved in organized community activities or social events. This feeling isn’t uncommon in Cambodia where decades of past oppressive regimes created a lingering fear of being spied on and falsely accused and punished.
“I had no confidence or belief in myself, since I had no specific experience or skills in agriculture to share with other community members.”
When Food for the Hungry (FH) Cambodia started offering community workshops on agriculture, however, things began to change. “Since I have been involved with FH, I have updated my agriculture methods and farming practices,” Ry Lai explains.
“Nowadays I can make compost from the rotten vegetables and use other household potential resources to grow my vegetables. Also, I can make natural pesticides and understand the way to prepare vegetable farming during the rainy season and dry season. More importantly, I can grow vegetables by using compost fertilizer and natural pesticides with high-yield vegetables.”
|By selling their home-grown veggies to neighbours, Ry Lai and Roung Ran not only increase their family income, they also raise the level of food security and nutrition in their community!|
While participating in some of the agricultural workshops, Ry Lai was offered the role of a Lead Farmer, an agriculture volunteer who teaches other community members new farming techniques. Why? “Because they [FH] found out that I am being active and diligent with vegetable farming including soil preparation and seed management, compost making, natural pesticide, and vegetable farming.”
After actively engaging with FH activities, Ry Lai began to change. No longer keeping to himself, he now encourages neighbours to drop by and ask him about farming!
“I am proud of myself because I am able to share agricultural knowledge that I have gotten from the FH program to my community members. They turn to pay attention to what I am sharing and always come to seek more advice.”
As the wider community follows the lead of men and women like Ry Lai and Roung Ran, more families are growing in health and income. The community used to struggle with poor living conditions, inadequate sanitation, a lack of knowledge around how to use hygiene to keep disease away, and basic agricultural methods.
Today, Ry Lai observes, “Our community members have changed themselves to live in good conditions through planting vegetables, raising chicken and fish, and growing cassava, cashews, and rice. Moreover, there are many people in the community who have their own water filter tank and have access to toilets at home and good transportation in the communities, while our youth and children’s hygiene and health are much improved.”