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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Kampot farmers try to tap into Asian birds' nest boom

Kampot farmers try to tap into Asian birds' nest boom

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As the price of swallows' nests rises on the international market, govt is encouraging farmers to begin keeping the birds

HENG CHIVOAN

Swallows swoop around a concrete bunker at a makeshift swallow farm in Kampot province on Friday.

KAMPONG BAY - In this village on the

outskirts of Kampot town, the delicate chirp of swallows nesting comes

not from the actual winged creatures, but are instead piped through

loudspeakers attached to the side of squat concrete bunkers.

The bizarre and somewhat unsightly constructions are part of a project

that government officials hope will serve the dual purposes of commerce

and conservation: the harvesting of swallows' nests.

Across Asia, demand for swallows' nest - used primarily is the

manufacture of high-end alcoholic drinks - is rising, with one kilogram

of the material fetching as much as US$4,000 to $6,000, according to

Deputy Director of Forestry Administration Chea Samnang.

In a bid to boost the incomes of farmers, many of whom manage to just

scrape by on subsistence harvests of rice, officials are encouraging

them to pursue swallows' nests on a commercial basis.

"Swallow farming not only helps us to protect and preserve the

swallow population in Cambodia, it will also help us to increase the

income of rural farmers," Chea Samnang said Sunday, adding that most of

the nests from Cambodia are exported to Thailand, Malaysia and China.

The government has so far targeted farmers in Koh Kong and Kampot provinces, as well as Sihanoukville, Chea Samang said.

Koh Kong provincial governor, Yuth Phouthang, a swallow farmer himself,

said that in 2005 he invested $100,000 in land and on the construction

of swallow shelters to attract the birds.

Over the first year of operations, he harvested around two kilograms of

nest and has since expanded, building shelters in Sihanoukville and

Kampot.

"Now I can collect five kilograms of swallow nest [at one time], and I

can earn more than $100,000 a year," Yuth Phouthang said. "I have only

spent money on creating the swallows' shelter, but I do not pay for

swallows' food," he added.

...People say

swallows' nest is good for the lungs and skin diseases.

He said that he hopes to increase his profits, taking advantage of the swallows' thrice-yearly nesting habits.

It takes around 100 nests to make a kilogram of salable birds nest

product, and the number of nests the swallows  can produce depends on

how much food they have access to.

 

Koy Luon, 72, a villager in Kampong Bay's Sovann Sakor village, said

swallows make their nest from tiny tree branches, dry grass and mud.
The nests themselves are not edible, but if brewed into a drink, the mix is purported to have healing properties.

"People say swallows' nest is good for the lungs and for various skin

diseases. It is beneficial to the elderly," he said, adding that he

collected about 100 swallows' nests over the first six months of this

year. 

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