The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has distributed a total of 3,000 tonnes of emergency reserve rice to help more than 7,000 households in provinces hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Agriculture minister Veng Sakhon said the people are in Kampong Cham, Siem Reap, Oddar Meanchey, Banteay Meanchey, Battambang, Tbong Khmum and Svay Rieng provinces.

He said Tbong Khmum and Svay Rieng were the last of the seven provinces targeted by South Korea, as part of a programme led by the secretariat of ASEAN Plus Three – ASEAN plus China, Japan and South Korea – to provide the Cambodian government with emergency rice reserves.

“The rice was distributed to 7,500 households, including 1,500 in Banteay Meanchey and 1,000 in each of the other targeted provinces. Each family received 40kg of rice,” he said.

While distributing the rice, Sakhon advised them to adapt their lives to the new normal during the pandemic, practise the three dos and three don’ts and get vaccinated. He recommended these practices be followed in the future to prevent other infectious diseases.

He said he had also urged them to re-establish their livelihoods by striving to grow crops and raise animals and fish, so they could address the needs of their families without spending money. Parents and guardians ought to send their children to school according to the official timetable so they will not become reliant on handouts and fall into crime.

In a Facebook post, the minister also instructed the directors of the agriculture departments across the country to study the possibility of providing seeds, fish stock or poultry to farmers if required, and suggested improving cooperation with the private sector and national and international organisations to assist with this.

Svay Rieng provincial agriculture department director Sok Sotheavuth said the province had received 40 tonnes of rice.

He added that the department has been providing the materials necessary for the families to grow crops under the ASPIRE programme. Agricultural officials would examine efforts by the people to implement cultivation methods and animal husbandry, and would make up shortages if they were required.

“All of the farmers have received seeds and supplies from the government – apart from a small group who were outside of the programme. Once the programme is in place, farmers in the area can contact our team should they face a shortage and we will make up the shortfall,” he said.

Tbong Khmum agriculture department director Heng Piseth said the province had received rice for distribution to three districts – Dombae, Ponhea Kraek and O’Reang-ou. In the New Year, to improve food security, the department also planned to introduce training for farmers, as well as the seeds and supplies needed to improve their agricultural and animal husbandry skills.

“We will monitor the living situations of families in our province and will try to share knowledge to those that need it. As we do not have a large amount of seeds to distribute, we will share them to the most-affected families first,” he said.

Piseth also called on the farming communities in the province to use agricultural waste to make compost. Replacing expensive fertilisers with compost would preserve a lot of the families’ resources, he added.