In 2002 Mrs Keut Chanthy and her family bought three hectares of rice fields in Prey Tonle in Kampot Province. At first, the Keut family could produce a rice paddy yield of one tonne per hectare but over time, as they gained experience, they gradually increased the yield to as high as two tonnes.
In 2010, the Keut family learned about the Cambodia Agricultural Value Chain Program (CAVAC) and its plans to rehabilitate the nearby Trapeang Chak canal. Upgrading irrigation is central to the Program, which is funded by the Australian Government through the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), because it can increase the number of crops produced each year. A reliable water supply allows farmers to grow not only wet season paddy, but also at least a second crop in the dry season.
Mrs Keut was ready for the challenge and invested the family’s savings in a power tiller and diesel pump. Six months after the canal rehabilitation was complete, she had successfully harvested her first plot of dry season rice and received a yield of almost five tonnes per hectare, more than doubling her previous best yields. Apart from the additional crop, Mrs Keut is also transforming her farming practices by using the broadcasting method of planting.
The Keut family is not alone in its success. As a result of CAVAC’s rehabilitation of the Trapeang Chak canal, all the families in Prey Tonle can produce a minimum of two crops per year. Other farmers are showing signs that they will consider changes to their farming practices.
Since the completion of the work at Prey Tonle, CAVAC has rehabilitated another seven canals. The CAVAC Program is central to AusAID’s goal of assisting the Royal Government of Cambodia to reduce rural poverty. Around 90% of Cambodia’s poorest people live in rural areas, and Australia is helping smallholder farmers to increase their incomes by providing access to irrigation and good quality seeds and fertilizers and also by helping to link those farmers to markets where they can get a better price for their product. These are practical and sustainable measures that will help overall around 120,000 farmers, just like Mrs Keut and her family, to have a brighter future.