Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Spinning straw into food security

Spinning straw into food security

Joel Karsten (left) demonstrates straw bale farming techniques during a workshop yesterday in Banteay Meanchey province. KOTRA
Joel Karsten (left) demonstrates straw bale farming techniques during a workshop yesterday in Banteay Meanchey province. KOTRA

Spinning straw into food security

An American horticulturalist is in Cambodia providing training in a unique farming method that proponents believe can improve food security in some of the country’s remotest regions.

Joel Karsten champions straw bale farming, a method that involves growing vegetables from a bundle of straw. In 2013, the Minnesota-native published a book on his technique, Straw Bale Gardens, which became immensely popular among agricultural enthusiasts, according to a review of the book in the New York Times.

Karsten, who is here at the invitation of the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) and rural development NGO Ockenden Cambodia, said the method can provide a secondary food source to traditional sources at risk to environmental fluctuations like the current devastating drought.

“[Straw bale farming] is definitely an option for something to do with all this rice straw they have here,” said Karsten yesterday from Banteay Meanchey province, where he is leading his training courses.

“It can solve a lot of problems in areas where the soil is poor, where it’s too wet to grow vegetables or too dry to grow rice,” he said.

In Karsten’s method, fertiliser is used to convert the insides of a straw bale into composted soil, where seeds are planted.

While the method has proven popular with growers in the US and Europe, the jury is out as to whether it will take off in Cambodia, where traditional farming methods are deeply ingrained, said Karsten.

“We’re trying to convince farmers who have been doing something a long time that there’s a different way to do it, a better way. Currently, it’s not part of their paradigm,” said Karsten. “The wheels turn very, very slowly.”

Nhov Nharn, managing director of Ockenden, said his organisation plans to introduce the method to 362 farms that the NGO assists in Battambang, Pursat and Banteay Meanchey provinces.

“Every year in Cambodia, farmers just burn their straw bale,” he said. “But we can use it to grow.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Cambodia unveils new quarantine regulations

    The government has modified Covid-19 quarantine requirements, shortening the duration for, among others, Cambodian officials, foreign diplomats and delegations, investors and inbound travellers in general. According to an official notice signed by Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng late on October 16, quarantine length for Cambodian

  • Cambodia sets new Covid-19 quarantine rules

    The government has modified Covid-19 quarantine requirements, shortening the duration for, among others, Cambodian officials, foreign diplomats and delegations, investors and inbound travellers in general. According to an official notice signed by Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng late on October 16, quarantine length for Cambodian

  • Hun Sen: Cambodia set to fully reopen

    Prime Minister Hun Sen concludes that the October 5-7 Pchum Ben public holiday, during which many people either flocked to their hometowns for family reunion or gathered at tourist attractions across the country, has not caused an outbreak of Covid-19. In a special address to

  • Will Evergrande change the way Chinese developers do business in Cambodia?

    China’s property sector policy has exposed the grim financial condition of real estate developers including those operating in Cambodia, which raises questions over the viability of their projects and business going forward The dark blue netting draping over one of Yuetai Group Co Ltd’

  • Cambodia voted ‘world’s friendliest country’ in Rough Guides reader poll

    Cambodia ranked number one among the “World’s Friendliest Countries”, according to a reader poll conducted by London-based international website “Rough Guides”. Taking submissions through Twitter and Facebook, “Rough Guides”, a well-known travel agency and publisher of guidebooks, said the Kingdom “was by far the

  • S’ville set to turn into ‘second Shenzhen’

    The Ministry of Economy and Finance has awarded a master plan consultancy contract to top Chinese institute for the development and transformation of Preah Sihanouk province into a “Model Multi-Purpose Special Economic Zone”, Southeast Asia’s next logistics and resort hub and innovation centre. The