From 18 to 19 March 2014, I carried out a field visit it Svay Chrum district of Svay Rieng province with Ms. Chhoun Soklang food security adviser. The purpose of the visit was to understand the current situation of agricultural and nutritional practices of villagers in Svay Chrum district of Svay Rieng province. Several communes in the district were selected for the study. We met the villagers and local authorities (village chief and commune council) in group to discuss the agricultural and nutritional issues. In addition, we also interviewed staff of Watanak Pheap organization and Mr. Thoeun staff of CFAP about their interventions in the agricultural and nutritional fields as well as challenges that they are facing in relation to farmers’ adoption of innovation introduced by their organizations.

Tarpaulin pond © Yim Soksophors
Tarpaulin pond

Based on the results of the group discussion, a major barrier of the farmers in doing agricultural practice is water shortage in the dry season, especially from February to May. During this period of time, the agricultural activity is very limited and the villagers lacked of food for the family consumption. Not much of the vegetables could be produced while water is not sufficient. The villagers need to buy vegetables, meat, and other food commodities from local markets. In general, the dry season vegetables that are available in the local markets are imported from neighboring countries, especially Vietnam, which high use of agri-chemical.  On the other hand, majority of the people did not understand definition of nutrition, most of the women were not able to give the definition, but few men could give some ideas. Generally, same food is prepared for adults and children.

vegetables planted in bags © Yim Soksophors
vegetables planted in bags

To deal with the water shortage problem, few farmers with technical and financial support from SNV prepared tarpaulin pond in order to eliminate water percolation into the soil. This help water to last longer. Based on the farmer’s observation, the water available in the tarpaulin pond is about 2-3 months longer than the normal ponds. However, the amount of water available is very less for planting vegetables (in March, there is about 0.5 meter depth of water remaining in the tarpaulin ponds). The villagers only used that water to survive some natural fishes that they caught in the rainy season. Fishes from the tarpaulin ponds provided some food for the farmer families especially in the dry season. Mr. Thoeun, staff of CFAP raised that the cost of tarpaulin is about 200 USD and it is expensive for the villagers to afford for it at once. The tarpaulin might be usable for three years but the farmers are reluctant to put their investment in buying new tarpaulin / plastic to replace the broken tarpaulin. On the other hand, the level of spontaneous dissemination and adoption of this innovations is low due to the expensive price of the tarpaulin.​ In addition, the villagers have changed some practices for planting vegetables in the dry season, some of them planted vegetables in small containers, bag, etc. By this way, the villagers raised that they used less water and it is easy to manage the soil fertility.