Koh Kong province
IN a small village in Koh Kong province, poultry farmer Keo Sok is learning that healthy practices can be good for business.
The Sre Ambel district man is one of 71 farmers in Koh Kong participating in an NGO-led programme aimed at reducing the risks from so-called bird flu, the A(H5N1) influenza virus.
The training has taught him to keep his chickens in pens rather than letting them run free, to feed them properly rather than letting them eat insects or rotten vegetables cast off from the family’s dinner, and to separate the hens from the chicks – a practice that allows hens to lay eggs faster, he said.
Now, the farmer is starting to see the rewards. Whereas before he only managed to feed five hens, he now keeps 20, as well as other chickens.
“My chickens rarely die, and they mature fast since I started following these bio-security measures,” Keo Sok said.
The NGO CARE Cambodia started its Community Based Avian Influenza Risk Reduction project in 2006. It now spans three border provinces – Svay Rieng, Prey Veng and Koh Kong – where transmission risks were seen as higher because of their proximity to countries that have reported outbreaks of avian influenza.
The programme includes setting up “demonstration farms” where farmers can observe safe poultry-keeping practices.
Proponents of the project said they quickly discovered benefits beyond the health goals.
“The demonstration farm was originally intended for disease prevention,” said Cecilia Dy, CARE’s avian influenza project coordinator. But by following the practices prescribed at the farms, she said, “they get more economic benefit from having healthy poultry for eating and selling”.
It has been a learning process for many local farmers, said To Senghab, the chief of the district’s veterinary department.
“Some people are confused when chickens die; they think it is because a guardian spirit killed them,” To Senghab said.
Pin Savath, deputy director of the provincial health department, said the programme had proved successful in preventing the spread of bird flu.
“People became aware of bird flu and how to prevent it, so our province is free from bird flu.”
Cambodia has reported 10 human cases of A(H5N1)and eight deaths since 2003, according to the World Health Organisation. Vietnam has seen 119 reported cases and 59 deaths in that time frame, while Thailand has registered a total of 25 cases and 17 deaths.