Like many in her village, a few weeks ago Hem Yon decided to take up a new profession. The 60-year-old farmer has one of the 10 or so stalls selling bath mats and hammocks along the side of the main Highway 2 near the village of Veay Chneas. Driving through, the stalls seem to spring up from nowhere.
“Before, nobody sold here. We’ve just begun this year,” says Hem Yon. “I don’t know who was the first seller, but when I saw sales were good I started too.”
As her house is right next to the main road, she can easily combine her new trade with farming. Some of the bath mats she makes herself while others she sells for nearby villagers, who lack her great vantage point.
“I just started working on the loom about two weeks ago,” she says. “I borrowed it from someone who went to work in a garment factory. I learned by watching other people using one.”
Hem Yon designs the mats herself, combining whichever colours she likes, but buys all the hammocks as she has not yet learned this skill.
The bath mat she is currently working will fetch 1,500 riel (US$0.40). “Today I have only finished one because I am so busy,” she says. Her hammocks will sell for 15,000 riel.
The material is brought from Phnom Penh, cast-offs from one of the many garment factories near the capital.
“I am not sure in the future whether it will be successful or not, but we have to see what happens,” she says.
“If we cannot sell for five days we don’t worry because all this we can keep forever.”
INTERPRETER: RANN REUY