In the rural Cambodian village of Sovanna Baitong, where Wildlife Alliance’s Community Agriculture Development Project (CADP) is located, 187 families have been provided the tools to increase their household income in ways that are sustainable for both their families and the environment. Farmers use climate-smart techniques to grow a variety of crops yearlong, however income diversification is encouraged to protect farmers from bad harvest due to drought or heavy monsoonal rains. This supplemental income also provides a more sustainable livelihood that will prevent desperate farmers from returning to poaching and forest destruction.
Wildlife Alliance provides families interested in income-generating projects with resources and technical assistance. Recently, a Wildlife Alliance field technician provided training on the rearing of chickens. Twenty-two farmers participated in this training, where they received lessons on making and using vaccinations, building a suitable coop, and taking proper care of the chickens. Other enterprises supplementing their agricultural income include selling food and merchandise, sewing, repairing vehicles, and renting equipment. Women in the community have been leading the charge in entrepreneurial endeavors. The Women’s Committee provides training in various activities such as traditional Khmer food preparation and handicraft skills to promote such micro-businesses.
To pay for these projects, community members are able to borrow from the community’s micro-credit fund. This year, 26 families took out loans and repayment is already at 98%. In the community, 32 families have been earning over an average of $120 a month from these initiatives, with 10 families earning above $250 a month.
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Ket Thy and his wife, Pov Sean, originally lived in the forest of Preak Thanong in the Botum Sakor district of Koh Kong. Like other poor, landless migrant families, Ket Thy came to Koh Kong to clear forestland for subsistence crops and to poach wildlife for survival. However, this unsustainable lifestyle brought with it uncertainty, instability and isolation. With a growing desire for community and security, Ket Thy and his wife decided to join Wildlife Alliance’s Community Agriculture Development Project in Sovanna Baitong in 2004.
With help from Wildlife Alliance’s agricultural technicians, Ket Thy and Pov Sean have been able to cultivate their own land, growing vegetables for their own consumption as well as cash crops. They have come a long way since their slash-and-burn and hunting days, now using climate-smart techniques like drip irrigation and composting to improve productivity without degrading natural resources.
Ket Thy has managed to not only lift his family out of poverty, but has also been able to save a significant portion of their income. After three years of saving, Ket Thy and Pov Sean will be moving their family into a newly constructed house. They are among a growing number of families in the community that have now been able to make major home improvements. This is an exciting step for Ket Thy and his family, because the move represents not only a new dwelling, but a permanent home and future in the community of Sovanna Baitong.
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Husband and wife, Pich Sophal and Sok Chantha have worked hard to make a life for themselves in Sovanna Baitong. Focusing on growing cash crops throughout the year, they’ve managed to steadily increase their income. They’ve taken full advantage of Wildlife Alliance’s Community Agriculture Development Project (CADP), which helps families earn a livable income through training in modern agriculture techniques and marketing, and provides farmers with subsidized tools, irrigation, and seedlings. They cultivate cucumber, tomato, radish, spinach, pumpkin and cashews and earned an average monthly income of USD $165, a significant increase from what they were making before they joined the program.
Not only are they dedicated farmers, but they are both very active community members. Pich Sophal, works in the community as Water Meter Reader, where he records each community member’s water consumption for irrigation. He also makes sure that the irrigation equipment of every lot is always in good working condition and properly kept. Sok Chantha, is a true entrepreneur. Her excellent communication and marketing skills have also made her a natural leader in the community. She serves on the marketing committee of the Agriculture Association and assists the Agricultural Development Committee, where she uses her abilities to help the community strike deals with various market vendors and contacts. In her free time, she also engages in small business ventures, selling rice cakes, fish and vegetables to the village on her new motorcycle. To diversify her income, she has also recently obtained a micro-credit to raise livestock.
Pich Sophal and Sok Chantha have finally been able to escape the vicious cycle of poverty and debt. Their steady income has allowed them to make improvements on their house, acquire a motorcycle and generate savings. Both their children study at the village primary school and the whole family has access to health care. The family has achieved a level of financial success and independence that they never dreamed would be possible when they lived off the forest in Chi Phat.
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