I am writing in response to your article "Planting machinery imports set to improve rice farming" (June 4).
I grew up in Cambodia in the 1960s, and I cannot recall Khmer agriculture ever receiving this much attention. Like many other Khmers, I value and respect Khmer farming techniques.
Cambodia has some of the most fertile agricultural lands in the world and Khmer farming has always been small scale.
So, there are a number of reasons that I am concerned about the issues raised in this article.
First, it sounds to me that backers of this technology have not factored in the real equipment costs. For example, at US$11, 000 per piece, without mentioning the cost of maintenance and petrol, the total cost to a farmer would be too high.
Secondly, the French Development Agency (AFD) might be well-intentioned in supporting Khmer farmers with $3.55 million, but do they really mean well, or is this just an investment so they can sell machinery to poor Khmer farmers?
Thirdly, in today's globalised world, people's attitudes towards agricultural goods have changed and consumers are increasingly opting for organic foods.
So the question is, will this lead to large-scale industrial farming with more machines, more new bio-seeds, and more fertilisers; and what will the consequences be? Will it cost more to produce and sell; will it be organic; and will it hurt Khmer farmers?
Fourthly, we cannot assume that industrialising Cambodian agriculture will benefit all people. Cambodia is different from other parts of the world in that farmers are mostly unaware of world matters.
In fact, using industrial machines, new bio-seeds, and fertilisers can harm the environment and human health.
Engine oil, gasoline and diesel can leak, pollute and contaminate our rice fields, water, soil and the air. The conventional way of Khmer farming does not harm the environment - it costs less and is independent of large companies.
In addition, the conventional way of using cows and water buffalo to farm gives farmers livestock to grow and sell for meat or to lease to other farmers and save the environment.
In conclusion, what Cambodia really needs is to become the world's number-one organic food producer while saving the environment at the same time. If you are a Khmer farmer, you cannot allow yourself to be dependent on the industrialised world.
We have fertile land, vast water supplies and hard working farmers. But we need to have balanced small-scale farming while minimising the use of industrial technologies.
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