Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Rice farming comes of age

Rice farming comes of age

Rice farming comes of age

A new irrigation project in Kandal province has doubled yields and farmers are looking

forward to planting a dry season crop for the first time, an official of the Ministry

of Water Resources and Meteorology (MWRM) said.

During a tour of the farmland marking the completion of the irrigation system on

December 19, MWRM Secretary of State Veng Sakhon said farmers in the area have already

expanded crops to include cucumber and watermelon and in May 2008 they will begin

their first dry season rice crop.

"Before the project everything was dependant on rain," explained Deputy

Baku commune chief Nob Chain. "No rain, no produce. With this project we have

water all the time," said Chain.

Chain said farmers in his area were reporting yields have doubled or more since the

irrigation project.

He said they reported an increase from 1.5 tons per hectare to 3 to 5 tons. Next

year that could double again, he said.

The irrigation has improved livelihoods of the farmers to the extent that 100% of

the children in the commune can attend school. Many parents can even afford to send

their children to kindergarten, said Chain.

The irrigation project, managed by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency

(JICA), included the construction of a 95-meter headworks with four hydraulically

controlled gates as well as regulator repairs and expansion of the Seventh January

Dam and 5,300 meters of main canal in the Kandal Stung area.

About 9,000 people, 7,000 from the local community as well as officials and investors

from Phnom Penh, attended the celebration marking the completion of the project,

which was begun in October 2005 with $16.1 million in Japanese funding and $1 million

from the Cambodian government.

Minister of Water Resources and Meteorology Lim Kean Hor said at the celebration

that 14,300 farmers will benefit from the irrigation of 1,950 hectares of farm land.

He said the threat of annual flooding in Dangkor, Kandal and Phnom Penh city will

also be reduced.

Prime Minister Hun Sen and Japanese Ambassador Shinohara Katsuhiro presided over

the ceremony.

"Irrigation is one of the key factors in promoting agriculture," Shinohara

said. "I am convinced that the successful completion of the project will contribute

to Cambodia's economic development and to further strengthening the friendship between

the people of Japan and the Kingdom of Cambodia."

According to the Department of Planning and Statistics, 321,939 hectares were cultivated

for dry season rice in 2005 producing about 1.25 million tons of rice, about 21%

of Cambodia's yearly harvest.

Today most farmers in Kandal Stung use local varieties of rice. With the introduction

of dry season crops, intensification rice (IR) varieties will be needed due to the

short cultivation period and low water requirements.

JICA will continue their work in the area by helping farmers master new growing techniques

and educating farmers on the importance of using both local and IR rice varieties,

a combination that increases production and causes less environmental damage.