Solar powered water pumps are providing an income for around 250 households in Kampong Cham province, with the water being sold to area farmers for the irrigation of 1,500ha of paddy twice per year in Sambo and Trapeang Thla villages of Batheay district.

According to Chhim Oun, a 41-year-old farmer from Sambo village in Batheay district, who has 28ha of land for rice farming, the water he previously used to irrigate the fields is now pumped by SOGE Cambodia, which has installed solar panels to power a pumping station there.

Oun said he has been using water provided by the solar pumps for more than two years, while also supplementing it with some water from the main canal. With sufficient supply of water, he can grow two crops a year, though his yields vary from four to five tonnes depending on the weather.

He indicated that currently his biggest issue is that there are no canals to drain water from the fields when it is particularly rainy, which leads to the rice going rotten.

Oun said that he invests around $20,000 per year in rice farming with expenses such as renting farmland, buying fertiliser and fuel, and renting, buying or repairing machinery used for plowing or other tasks.

He expressed some frustration with market brokers who will often only pay 750 to 800 riel per kg.

“We don’t have a true rice market that is open every day, and oil is expensive just like fertiliser is. We must use fertiliser because we have no idea what to do to make the crops grow otherwise. If there was a real rice market established here, it would be fantastic because we’d have a better chance of selling what we farm at a fair price and really getting some benefit,” he said.

Sambo village chief Nhel Chamroeun told The Post that his commune in Batheay district has a main canal constructed by a Korean agency as well as a reservoir for rice field irrigation.

He said farmers have currently planted roughly 1,500ha of land between the villages of Sambo and Trapeang Thla. The solar pumping station, which draws water from a Tonle Sap tributary to Sambo village, is about 5km away.

SOGE Cambodia owns the solar pumping station, which is 5sqm in size and has close to 50 solar panels. Farmers can purchase water from the firm twice a year for a price of 400,000 riel ($100) per hectare and the water is always available.

Chamroeun said local farmers prefer to grow the light non-seasonal varieties such as 85, 51 and 52.

“I am happy because the farmers in my village are all busy farming and there is no shortage of water. This year, my farmers are selling rice at a slightly higher profit than last year,” he said.

As for the current rice market, Sim Tha Virak, director of the Kampong Cham provincial Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, told The Post late last month that there were no issues for farmers because the province’s rice mills were active buyers, while farmers also sold at Prek Dambang in Kandal province’s Muk Kampoul district, for shipment elsewhere.

“Market and price are not issues, and perhaps next year we will see agreements between millers and producers. For example, what quantity of rice does the mill require, and when? We can then cooperate on the sales of the locally produced rice that we have by bargaining together and making agreements with the mill,” he said.