Transforming Cambodian lives: From construction to baby chicks

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Keam Korng plans to produce 1,500 chicks per month to meet the overwhelming orders he receives from meat suppliers in nearby communities. Pha Lina

FROM the age of 16, Keam Korng would wake up each day at the crack of dawn to ride his ageing motorbike the more than 20km from Dounkeo commune to Pouk district for his construction job. Returning home late at night, he would also have to find time to harvest crops from his backyard to feed his family.

“I worked in construction since I was 16 without any progress but only hardship. I was busy at the construction site all the time, and the small amount of money I earned would be gone once I paid for everything,” Korng says.

But in June last year, all that changed for the now 35-year-old. As part of an initiative led by non-profit Heifer International (HI) – in conjunction with local partners and the local government in 12 provinces – Korng has been provided with the skills to have a more sustainable lifestyle through small-scale farming.

The former construction worker now earns his living raising hens and baby chicks on his small family farm to sell to nearby communities, thanks to the training programme he was provided by HI.

“If I raise hens in the backyard, I can have more time to plant crops and go fishing for my daily food,” Korng says.

Today, Korng raises chicks that are sold for 3,000 riel ($0.75) each. He plans to produce 1,500 chicks per month to meet the overwhelming orders he receives from meat suppliers in nearby communities.

HI is a global non-profit that has worked in Cambodia since 1984 and cites women’s empowerment, improved income, nutrition, increased social capital for local farmers and environmental protection as their primary aims.

In Cambodia they work to empower small scale farmers in the Kingdom by training them how to cultivate sustainable and environmentally friendly livelihoods through small-scale, community-focused pig and chicken rearing, as well as small-scale agricultural farming.

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“We help improve their products and productivity by providing them with agricultural and animal raising techniques,” says Sim Dara, HI’s associate director of programmes.

Farming families are organised into tight-knit networks called self-help groups (SHG). SHGs are given access to shared technical knowledge, savings and credit, communal work and community development activities. There are 1,400 SHGs each comprised of 25 to 30 members in Cambodia alone.

HI has also established chicken and duck market shops in both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap in which the farmers’ produce is sold.

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One supporter of the scheme and a buyer of local produce is Phum Sla Eco-Resort just outside Siem Reap town. The resort’s general counsellor Kham Sereychantha says they use vegetables and husbandry provided by the Samaki Chamroeun Phal community – one of HI’s SHGs – to ensure that their customers are consuming healthy produce.

“We prefer to buy local vegetables and husbandry that does not contain harmful chemicals, and that also supports the local community and our customers’ health,” he says.

Dounkeo commune’s Samaki Chamroeun Phal community has 336 member families selling agricultural products, including vegetables and pork produce.

To learn more about HI and their work to improve sustainability and small-scale farming in Cambodia, visit their website at: www.heifer.org.

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