Banteay Srei district governor Khim Finan has spearheaded a collective farming project on nearly 40ha in the district’s Preah Dak commune in Siem Reap province to help feed some of the community’s poorest citizens.
Finan told The Post on Wednesday that the Covid-19 pandemic has hurt families financially and affected the daily lives of people in his district.
He said he believes the best option is to ensure food security for everyone in the community, especially for the most vulnerable – the poor, disabled and elderly.
Finan said all 39 families in O’Toteung and Thnal Toteung villages in Preah Dak commune have agreed in principle to give nearly 40ha of their rice fields to the district administration until the end of the year to pilot the project.
The project will start with this year’s monsoon-season crop, during which rice is typically planted from May until July and harvested in December.
If it is successful, the project could continue for the subsequent dry-season crops. During the dry season, rice is typically planted in November and harvested in January or February.
For the first crop, owners will receive an amount of rice similar to their normal harvests, and the remaining yields will be distributed among the poorest people in the community.
“For the collective farming project, we will use existing resources and borrow rice from locals who live near the source of the water, using early-season rice,” Finan said.
The project will be supported by donated seeds, fertiliser, machinery and fuel. Volunteers will help with transplanting and harvesting the rice.
“The project is still in its testing phase, and I hope the results will make it a model to be applied on a larger scale elsewhere in the country, for greater collective benefit,” he said.
Phin Thorng, a 47-year-old farmer from O’Toteung village said on Wednesday that he has decided to join the collective farming project and expects to receive more rice than his family normally produces each year.
Thorng said he also wants to help society through rice farming by distributing the grain to people in need.
He said he has about 1ha of paddy fields near a water source and Finan wants to use the land as a site for the project.
Every year, he said he harvests about nine or 10 sacks of rice.
Finan confirmed that if his paddy is harvested for the collective farming project, he would receive a similar amount.
“I support this project because, as the district governor explained to us, we won’t suffer any losses, we’d only have to provide a small amount of labour for transplanting.
Rice seeds and machinery will be provided by charities. When we are all gathered, then we divide the harvest according to the yields,” Thorng said.
Pen An, a 48-year-old man from Thnal Toteung village, said on Wednesday that his 1ha of paddy fields produce 15 to 17 sacks of rice each year, but he only harvests once.
If he participates in the collective farming project with the district governor, he said he could be able to harvest twice a year.
“The governor’s idea is in line with Cambodia’s identity as an agricultural country. The farmers, district administration and poorer people will profit. I hope this new rice scheme is successful,” he said.