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Vann Sovath and her organic farm

Location: Kok Dong village, Siem Reap province

Summary: Through new skills learned as part of Banteay Srei’s climate change project, Vann Sovath has increased her farm’s productivity, making it more resilient to droughts and flooding.

“There is lots of flooding in this area, even my papaya tree was destroyed by the flood two years ago,” Vann Sovath, volunteer community facilitator for agriculture in Kok Dong village says.

As part of Banteay Srei’s climate change project in Siem Reap province, which began in 2011, Sovath and 20 other families from three villages received seeds and advanced training on vegetable growing to improve their ability to cope in the rainy season. “I learned how to use seedlings, how to prepare the soil, how to use irrigation with less water and how to grow flood resistant crops such as eggplant, runner beans, cucumber and green garlic,” Sovath explains.

Sovath’s family garden is impressive. With the small profit she has made from selling her vegetables, she has gradually been able to build on the land she inherited from her father by buying additional neighbouring plots of land. Sovath sells her produce every morning in the market. “Everything is always sold out by 10am,” she says proudly.

Before the climate change project, Sovath, like most Cambodian farmers, used chemical fertiliser to grow her vegetables. As part of the climate change project, participants were taught about the negative effects of chemical use on the environment, and shown how to make organic fertiliser. “Before there was so much pig and duck manure in the village with such a bad smell. Now it all goes on my vegetables,” Sovath says smiling.

Sovath’s new skills in vegetable growing are not only better for the environment, they are also much more lucrative, as organic, chemical free vegetables sell for almost double the price of normal vegetables at the local market. After Banteay Srei invited the director of the local market to come and see the climate change project and to learn about the benefits of cooking with organic food, he instigated a new scheme where all the organic sellers in the market could be identified by a green and yellow apron. “Only three other women in the market have the organic apron, it means we can sell our produce for more,” Sovath explains. For example, organic sellers are able to sell one kilo of broccoli for 6000 riel (approximately $1.5), whereas the non-organic sellers can only sell the same vegetable for 3000 riel (approximately $0.75), a kilo. “But people still prefer my vegetables as they are aware of the negative effects of chemicals on their health,” says Sovath proudly.

Sovath shares her new knowledge of organic and drought resistant farming with other villagers through her role as community facilitator, encouraging her neighbours to adopt the same techniques. “Now with the training I have received I am better prepared for the rainy season this year. I will grow more eggplant, grow more hanging vegetables and use bags to grow vegetables in the rainy season,” Sovath says.

Married with four children, Sovath has big plans for her smallholding. She wants to make a pond for fish and she dreams of building a new house one day. “When my children are older I will encourage them not to migrate to other provinces but to farm our land. That way they can earn enough money to support themselves and live a good life,” says Sovath.

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