Takeo farmer Ouk Heng, 66, examines her paddy last week. Drought is threatening to destroy harvests in Takeo province, where few farmers have access to proper irrigation systems.
A DROUGHT during the critical lead up to the annual harvest is devastating Takeo farmers without irrigation systems to use in dry times.
"Last year the brown grasshopper ate 30 percent of our seeds, this year the drought could do much worse," said Chhoeung Sareth, 54, a farmer in Trapaing Sab commune, Barty district in Takeo province, which has been hit especially hard by the drought.
The farmers in her community are bracing for a complete loss of their crop this year. "The rice seedlings will die if there is no rainfall, and we will die if there is no rice," she said.
Voeung Chanthan, head of Barty district's agriculture bureau, said "our district has no water supply other than rain so the drought has destroyed 70 percent of the rice".
Ith Sarun, director of Takeo province's agriculture department, estimated the rice harvest would shrink by 20 percent but insisted there would be no food shortages.
The drought's timing couldn't be worse, as it comes during the critical early stages of the paddy harvesting process, said Grahame Hunter, an agronomist for the agricultural technical team ABK. "The only way to get around drought is irrigation, which most farmers ... don't have access to."