Although the Neang Am Modern Agriculture Community is just over three months old, it has grown rapidly, leading to the purchase of its own drone, allowing it to sow dozens of hectares of rice per day.

The community, which covers four villages, is located in Siem reap province’s Kantuot commune, in Svay Leu district.

Chheun Sopheasey, the community leader and owner of Srey Mom 99 Rice Shop, told The Post that the community was initially discussed in October last year, but was officially launched on March 14 this year. It covers an area of 829 hectares and is made up of 84 families.

“This is the first time our farming community has used drones to sow rice. Previously, we only had drones for spraying fertiliser. We now use a larger drone for sowing rice. Having this drone is easy for us because it helps us farm on time, as now the rainy season is approaching,” she says.

According to Sopheasey, the community currently has only one drone for planting rice, with no plans to buy more, as it is capable of sowing all of the community’s fields. Also, it was expensive, although she declines to reveal the price.

Cultivation in this community is taken care of by the community members themselves, who receive a daily wage in addition to the rice produce they will receive. Those who do not want to be a part of the farming team can go to other jobs, according to Sopheasey.

Neang Am is an ancient rice variety that was last kept by an old woman named Am during the 1980s in Kratie province, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

Sopheasey said the Neang Am rice produced by the community is bought by her and then ground and sold in her shop, which sells only this variety. In the future, she thinks she will be able to form another rice community.

"We created this community with the aim of helping to improve the living standards of our members. When they cultivate alone, they cannot earn much yield because the land is not well prepared; they lack capital, lack rice seeds, lack everything,” she explains.

"Once we were organised as a community, we came together, shared capital and received the support of the government, such as the agriculture ministry and its partner organisations,” she adds.

She said that participating in the community also helps reduce migration to other places because families in this community can work in the community directly or can do other things in the village, such as growing vegetables and raising animals. In addition, the community also contributes to the protection of local forests.

Sopheasey revealed that the community is preparing to grow a wider variety of vegetables and raise animals in the future.

Khim Finan (centre), spokesman for the agriculture ministry, meeting with Neang Am modern agriculture community. Khin Finan

Khim Finan, spokesman for the agriculture ministry, notes that the Neang Am modern agriculture community is the only farming community with its own drone for sowing rice.

He said that in the past, farmers here operated through separate small-scale farming, with no choice but to work with their hands or rent drones and machinery, often at a high price.

He says the community’s drone is capable of sowing up to 70 hectares of rice per day and can also be used to spray fertiliser.

“This is one of the main benefits of uniting as a modern farming community,” he adds.

According to Finan, the ministry is supporting the community in developing a master plan for its long-term development.

“The Neang Am community has the ambition of becoming a community which produces a variety of agricultural produce, is environment inclusive, and is highly integrated with the surrounding ecosystems, ensuring community development that is both economically and environmentally sustainable,” he explains.

“In addition, the community will help to improve the livelihoods of each of the farmers who are members, and it will do so equitably,” he adds.