With a white board maker in one hand and a document in the other, Ing Sovan Ly, 34, is presenting a seminar to 20 trainees.
As the executive director of Neary Khmer Association for Health and Vocational Training (NKA), she is the first woman to bring effective microorganism (EM) fertiliser to Cambodia. After noticing her social activities and sacrifices, the head of government awarded her the Isarayak Yuos Medal of Neary Rathanak in 2006.
Before reaching success and fame, she fought a lot of difficulties.
When the Khmer Rouge captured Phnom Penh, she was evacuated to Kampong Thom province. After liberation day, her family moved back to Phnom Penh where she attended school while helping her mother earn money by selling noodles, candy, eggs, ice cream and other kinds of food.
Afterwards, she worked for the accounting staff at a hotel, taught the Thai language at night and worked selling glasses.
After finishing high school, she lived with her father in Thailand in 1989 and pursued her master’s degree in natural agriculture.
While studying and researching agriculture, she realised that EM fertiliser is important for agriculture, so she returned to Cambodia to develop the agricultural sector. She said that she saw that most farmers cultivate rice the traditional way and that in general, more farmland using less fertiliser means that farmers achieve less output. Moreover, farmers are turning to the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides because they think it makes it easier to grow the rice. However, it affects the health of both the farmer and soil.
Seeing these gaps, she founded the Neary Khmer Association for Health and Vocational Training (NKA) in 2004 to bring agricultural techniques involving EM to Cambodia. EM works by using useful bacteria to kill the harmful bacteria—it uses nature against nature to create better crops.
She has taught more than 200 courses and around two thousand farmers, and faced many challenges along the way.
“It was difficult for me because it is a new thing for Cambodia. I did not select trainees according to their education level. They could have had a Ph.D., Master’s, Bachelor’s, or could have been illiterate. All could join the training; thus, it did not work smoothly. I tried very hard to give a good lecture for them—some can catch on quickly, but others—I tried again and again to make them understand.”
To solve these difficulties, Sovan Ly tried her best by explaining a step-by-step process and comparing the theory to practice. She also allowed students to ask her questions in person or on the phone to help them understand.
Despite the difficulties, she loves the work because it allows her to participate directly in social action.
In addition to receiving love, value and respect from society, she is also warmed by her family. With two daughters, who are the gift of a seven-year-marriage, Sovan Ly says her husband shares the same goal and vision, so they understand each other well and take the responsibilities and sacrifices together with open minds.
“Those who want to walk on the successful pathway, you should be honest – honest with yourself, your time and boss. And you should try your best to achieve your dream. Particularly, you must search for knowledge and specific skills – if you have only integrity and resistance, it will be not lead you to success. You need to update your knowledge to learn new technology – you are not too old to learn.” said Sovan Ly.