Since taking the helm of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries on October 19, Dith Tina has toured several flood-afflicted provinces and distributed much-needed rice and other crop seeds to farmers.

Starting out in Kratie, Tbong Khmum, Kampong Cham and Siem Reap provinces, Tina directly inspected farmers’ inundated fields and learned first-hand about the use of fertilisers on the farmland being restored. He instructed Ngin Chhay, head of the ministry’s General Directorate of Agriculture, to arrange technical guidance for farmers to ensure that they are able to obtain the maximum yield from the seeds they have been gifted.

From Siem Reap, Tina travelled to neighbouring Banteay Meanchey province where he also stopped by Mongkol Borei district’s Chamnoam commune to inspect rice germination, explain cultivation techniques and get a better understanding of the circumstances of the farmers who are rehabilitating their rice fields there.

Samneang, a farmer in Chamnoam commune, was among the villagers who met Tina in person during the field visit. She was joyful upon learning that the young man she was speaking with was the newly-minted agriculture minister, though she was not gifted with fresh rice seed like the other farmers.

“I saw people coming together and heard that a high-ranking official was visiting, but I did not know that he was the new minister. I am very pleased that he came to visit us in person – it is important for him to understand what the realities on the ground are for himself,” she said.

Samneang was more fortunate than many of the other farmers in the commune, as she had harvested her rice before the floods struck.

Mao Mouy, a farmer with more than 2ha of rice fields, followed the minister’s field visit to the commune closely.

Mouy said the tour was an excellent sign, though he was reserved when asked for comment on Tina’s performance as the new minister.

“Let’s give him some time before we evaluate him, as he has only just taken office. Some people say that the minister is just acting, but he’s given me his phone number. I’m waiting to see if he continues to work as hard as he is now. If he slows down, or it looks like he’s just pretending to be concerned for us, I will call him directly and ask him what is going on,” he said.

In addition to farming, Mouy works as a motor-taxi driver to support his family – especially his children, who are studying at university. He said his household income had decreased due to flood-induced damages to his paddy fields.

He said that if there were no droughts or floods, his rice yield would support his family and he would even have a surplus of rice which he could sell. He is relieved to hear that the farmers are receiving the close attention of the nation’s agricultural leaders.

In front of Mouy and the assembled farmers of Chamnoam commune, Tina said he would monitor the progress of rice restoration in the commune closely and consistently.

After Banteay Meanchey, Tina was scheduled to continue his tour to other affected provinces, including Battambang, Pursat and Kampong Chhnang.