By Sin Phoan and Kep Ratana,

Happy Mountain Bird (HMB) Project is a project CEDAC has been implementing since 2005. The first two phases were implemented in 5 provinces. Phase III seeks to eradicate poverty among all the poorest people in 300 villages in 5 districts of Kampong Chhnang Province, Cambodia. The target families will be helped to adopt ecological family agriculture techniques to improve their living standard, thereby ensuring that their children can attend school and have access to primary education, which is the overriding common goal of the project.

From 9-17 March 2010, the HMB III project donor made his ninth mission to check the project’s progress. He visited 42 of 300 target villages to meet some of the stakeholders and beneficiaries of the project. These include community-based facilitators (CBFs), target families, community education promoters (CEP), children group leaders, school principals and village chiefs. During his visit, he was accompanied by two Japanese newspaper reporters and a Cambodian translator.

The objectives of the donor’s visit were concentrated on assessing the formation of children’s groups, which are set up by the CEPs to promote and encourage all children to go to school regularly, and to what extent the poorest target families are adopting the agricultural innovations. In this context, a meeting was organized with HMB project staff to reflect on and identify ideas to improve project outputs.  The donor also conducted meetings with school principals to learn about the children’s education, the formation of children’s groups and how to make sure all children can complete their primary education. He met as well with the CBFs and CEPs to discuss the poorest target families and the situation regarding the establishment of children’s groups in the villages. And finally, he met directly with target families and their children to see the innovations they are implementing with support from the CBFs and CEPs.

The Asahi Newspaper Agency subsequently reported that most of the target families have improved their living conditions since the project’s intervention. Before they spent a lot for their daily food needs and borrowed money from microfinance institutions, but now they can produce agriculture products from their home gardens and raise animals to reduce their household expenditures.

The project donor was very pleased to see the project outputs. Even though it is the dry season, many target families have been growing vegetables for daily consumption and getting daily income, and making composts to use on vegetables and rice fields. As many as 4,200 children groups were established by the CEPs to encourage all children to go to school regularly. The project seeks to play an important role not only in enabling all children to attend school, but to understand as well the value of education and the joy that learning can bring.