Massive flooding along the Mekong River in Cambodia has killed at least 150 people since August this year.
The worst flooding for over a decade, thousands of people have been forced to evacuate to higher ground after heavy rain washed bridges and homes away, and destroyed approximately 180,000 hectares of rice paddies across Cambodia.
Our trip to Kroach village to speak to Srey Phoom about this, and other things affecting her life and the life of the village was almost abandoned due to flooding along the road. A deep pool had formed at one point, It was hard to know if we could get the moped we travelled on through this pool, and as we stood knee deep in water discussing if we should attempt to go further or not, we saw many others reach the threshold of the pool, weigh up the risks, and turn back the way they came. Well, with some help from local characters we did make it, and rather than reading further account from me, why don't you just listen to Srey Phoom explain the village, life and current events in her own words. Over to you Srey Phoom.
"...Floods have caused big problems in the village - we were lucky because no one was killed. But the rains and the flooding that followed damaged much of the village's rice fields, I was lucky in that my own rice seems to have survived mostly. It's not just the rice, our plantations where we grow vegetables and other crops for the market and for ourselves have been destroyed by the water. My vegetable garden, and my potatoes and cassava. All the same."
"The vegetable garden started off by a CRDT activity here, well I grew long green beans, eggplants, cucumbers, corn and other things, they are good for our health and we only use organic fertiliser - but if you look at it now you can see it has been underwater for too long and the ground is ruined, it may be hard to grow there again, but I will try! So while there has been flooding we have had to buy the produce we once grew at the market or from other people, we are spending more money. We've set up a savings group which we hope will help. Getting to the market is tough of course, the waters will reduce eventually but travelling to other villages or to the market or anywhere really is very hard. The clinic is really difficult to get to..."
"...I know how to protect myself and my children from mosquitoes, and when the water is so high and the land always wet the number of mosquitoes really increases, children tend to get sick more often. The rainwater collector we have is very full right now! But without this the only other option for drinking water would be the dirty water from the streams. We still love using our biodigestor, without it we would have to cut down wood from the forests where there are many more mosquitoes - and in rainy season, it is very hard to cook with wet wood."
It was nice to see and hear Srey Phoom talk, she spoke of such difficulties, but I never get a sense that I am talking to someone beaten, someone crumbling under the pressures of modern village life. She is always strong, always willing to keep trying, always offering welcomes, meals and a place to rest your head. She provides. She is the modern Cambodian matriarch.
The water will recede eventually like Srey Phoom mentioned, but she did speak of one more thing that has them all scared in Kroach village, it had me scared too.
"...Everyone is worrying about their plantations right now as there are three companies that want to set up rubber farms here. We're not sure at the moment how the presence of these companies will affect the families, but we have heard that their plans might require 9000 hectares of land, that is about 80% of the available land in the village. We have asked local authorities, I have been to the Provincial Department of Land myself but have had no answer, the Provincial Governer even made a visit here, but he had nothign to say on the matter.
We have asked for this area of land (Srey Phoom draws a map on the ground with a stick) to be kept out of any future plans from these companies. But no one is saying anything, we hope the companies will not be allowed to take our land. There has been something strange happening recently though, rich people, powerful people have been making trips here arranging to buy the land themselves. I think they have heard of the plans of the rubber companies and are buying the lands themselves so they can sell it to the companies for a higher price. We're all very worried."
It was hard to know what to say to her.
On Wednesday October the 19th, GlobalGiving will be matching all donations at 30%. They have $100,000 available in matching funds. You could help us secure some of those funds for Kroach village by spreading the word, or by donating yourself on the 19th.
If you want to spread the link for our project page please copy and paste this: http://bit.ly/E325CF2bSR
It all kicks off at 00:00 EDT, which is:
00:00 in Washington,
05:00 in London,
11:00 in Cambodia,
13:00 in Tokyo,
and 15:00 in Melbourne... all on Wednesday October 19th 2011.
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