SRE TASOK, TAKEO - Local farmer Nuth Norm looked around his ruined rice seedlings
and said "I've been farming for 40 years and I've never seen such an incident."
In a neighboring Kab Nim village, Soy Sok Pheng said "we used to worry about
drought, flooding and fertilizers but this year a new calamity has happened to us.
Everyone has no rice to eat and no seeds to resow."
The calamity is the brown plant hopper. Within three weeks the insect has ruined
800 hectares of newly-planted seedlings in this area,which thousands of people rely
on for food in an area where they say they don't get much help from NGOs like in
Farmers have sown new seeds four or five times, but they have all been destroyed
and now they have none left to plant.
The pest has given theorists and experts a different dilemma - while many NGOs and
agricultural experts are actively lobbying against the use of pesticides, the Government
sees no other option but to spray poison on these insects.
It Nody, director at the Department of Agronomy, said $4,000 dollars worth of Trebon
and Basa pesticide is to be brought from Vietnam as such brands were not available
"I don't want to use pesticides because first it is expensive, second it affects
the useful insects, third it affects the environment and it is harmful to farmers'
health. [But] we have no choice... However, we are looking for the less poisonous
ones," Nody said.
Dr Gary Jahn, an IRRI entomologist said he had never seen such a plague before and
agreed the government was in a difficult position with farmers pressuring them to
act quickly. But, he said, the situation was likely to be a one-off problem as conditions
changed from year to year.
However, the plague has caused some concern that Vietnamese suppliers may take the
opportunity to dump highly toxic pesticides in Cambodia.
Yuto Hara, JICA technical expert of Department of Agronomy, said: "The government's
decision is right to use pesticide because there is no choice. We have to do something
for the farmers... I think up to this point my idea is to support pesticide, but
it must be low-toxic pesticides."