In Battambang province’s tranquil Banan district, nestled within O’Pong Moan village, a peculiar farming enterprise is in full bloom. Here, Ley Channy, aged 47, and her husband have chosen an unconventional path. They’re cultivating white mulberries, a crop typically associated with silkworm farming.
Despite being largely overshadowed in the agricultural landscape of Cambodia, the mulberry fruit packs a powerful punch in terms of health benefits.
Channy describes these small fruits as being a powerhouse of nutrition – low in calories, high in hydration, and packed with antioxidants, fibre, vitamins, minerals and protein.
Their venture into mulberry farming started small, intended primarily for personal consumption. They initially planted a modest 200 to 300 trees.
“As my relatives ate the fruit and reported feeling healthier, we were encouraged to continue planting,” Channy recalls. “We now manage around 6,000 trees across 5 to 6ha of land”.
She sings high praises for the benefits of the mulberry fruit.
“They’re beneficial for eye health, improving blood vessels and overall wellness. They aid digestion, help in detoxification, and are even beneficial for nails, red blood cells, menopausal women and cancer prevention,” she claims.
From a commercial perspective, the humble mulberry has proven lucrative.
“In the first year, the yield is small. But by the second and third years, it’s significantly more plentiful. We’re able to harvest 10 to 30kg daily and sell it straight away for $8 per kg,” Channy explains.
However, the process isn’t without its challenges. The harvesting of these tiny fruits proves tricky.
“Picking and storing the small fruits can be difficult, and if we harvest too early in the morning, it negatively affects the quality,” she admits.
Once harvested, the fruit needs to be refrigerated or kept cool for prolonged storage.
Despite these challenges, the business runs smoothly.
“Customers usually come to purchase immediately after each harvest of 10 to 30kg,” she says.
The versatile mulberry can be consumed fresh, used to create refreshing drinks, juiced, or even added to fruit shakes.
Yet, even with the success of their business, Channy and her family aren’t considering expansion.
“Our children are settled with their own families and are leading prosperous lives,” she shares. “This is more than just a business, it’s our way of life.”