Location: Kok Dong village, Siem Reap province
Summary: Through Banteay Srei’s climate change project, Kry Chooam learns new skills which improve his family’s living situation.
59-year-old Chooam has not always had a vegetable farm. “Before I started growing vegetables two years ago I had nothing to do after rice harvesting so I would just get drunk with friends. Sometimes when I drank I was violent with my wife,” Chooam explains soberly.
Chooam’s family was one of 20 to participate in Banteay Srei’s climate change project in Siem Reap province in 2011, receiving training on seed selection, organic fertiliser and technical gardening skills. “After receiving support from the climate change project, I changed my old habits in crop growing. Before I used to use many chemicals, now I use only natural compost and my products are better. Before I used to throw away polystyrene” Chooam says laughing. “Now I save it and use it for raised plant beds to protect them from flooding”.
Chooam’s family’s smallholding is impressive, with row upon row of squash, lettuce, herbs and eggplant. “Before I used to think you had to be rich to have a productive farm, but now I know that is not true. You can use local materials and with some new skills be much more productive. I tell this to my neighbours,” says Chooam.
Chooam does not own rice fields so he has taken out a loan from his village credit scheme to rent rice fields from fellow neighbours, using the profits to send his children to school. Chooam’s wife is the chief community facilitator in the village and she also sells the vegetables he grows at the market every morning. “Before I was angry with my wife for spending less time at home with her new responsibilities as community facilitator. But now I know it is very important that she is active and I see the difference she is making in the community,” Chooam says. “I am very happy. Things are much better than before.”