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Garden City


Just because you live in a concrete jungle doesn’t mean that you can’t create some green space around your house. In cities around the world people are finding ways to plant gardens and grow produce, despite the fact that they are surrounded by pavement Phnom Penh is no exception.

In order to connect city dwellers with ecological activities, the Green City Project was launched in 1990 by the Planet Drum Foundation. While most of the gardening going on in Phnom Penh tends to be on a smaller scale than some of the projects that have been undertaken in other cities, Lift found a number of people who have maintained their green thumb despite their grey surroundings.

A number of people around Phnom Penh are staying in touch with nature by planting and cultivating a wide variety of vegetables and flowers. For example, on a tiny piece of land in the corner of her courtyard, Lem Loung grows chilis, wax gourds, pumpkins, garlic and cabbage. “I just don’t want my land to be useless, so I plant these vegetables,” the 65-year-old said.

Lem Loung doesn’t hope to make any money off of her harvest; she simply enjoys growing things, and being surrounded by plants makes her feels fresh and fulfilled.

“I just plant them to look at them,” she said. “And I sometimes use them when I cannot find something in the market.”

While the green city movement around the world focuses on how to use green space and public planning to minimise the human impact and help counteract pollution, some of the people we talked with had different motives.

In a city to which many of the residents have moved from the countryside, it seems the capitalist-minded ways of farming in the rural areas have made their way onto tiny patches of soil scattered around the city.

Phain Sokum, 63, who is living in a rented house in Phnom Penh, said that come harvest time, his backyard garden becomes especially important. He is now working as a construction worker, but his job doesn’t pay him enough money to support his family, and the small collection of plants gives his income a much-needed boost. “I sometimes can earn money from these plants when they produce,” he said. “I mostly sell them to my neighbours when they need them.”

Although his planting is partially motivated by money; the situation this year suggests that, like Lem Loung, Phain Sokum can’t help but to garden. Recently his plants have struggled to produce, and the price of seed is expensive. Phain Sokum knows he can’t make a profit, but he still grows there. “Whatever we need is around us and available whenever we need it,” he said.

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