Yang Sophol, 52, has been converted to the principles of agricultural diversity.
Photo by: Hector Bermejo
FOR many customers, bank mangers are there to listen to their requests and preferably say “yes”. But not Hem Vantha.
The branch manager for ACLEDA Bank in Pailin has made it a personal crusade to preach the gospel of agricultural diversity to his flock.
It’s a point he has made many times at meetings around the province.
“If we depend on one crop and we spend all year on it, it’s impossible,” he says.
Hem Vantha says 70 percent of the bank’s loans are to the agricult-ural sector.
He believes farmers would benefit from a more variegated approach that combines plantations, crop growing and even fish farming.
“If they change their attitude and adopt mixed agriculture, it can be good,” Hem Vantha says.
“If they grow only corn, when their crop gets damaged their income will decrease.”
Despite Hem Vantha’s sermons, few farmers seem to be getting his message.
“I see a small change,” he says. “They are growing a bit of chilli and some are farming fish, but they are not successful.”
Yang Sophol, 52, is one disciple who has heeded the word, according to Hem Vantha.
As well as having 27 hectares of corn and three hectares of cassava, she has 600 fruit trees.
“Before that, I just sold goods from my shop,” she says.
Yang Sophol took out her first loan from ACLEDA Bank in 2006, a couple of years after it opened a branch office in her town.
“At first, we did not know about their service and how to get a loan,” she says.
Beginning with micro-loans, Yang Sophol has gradually increased the amount she has borrowed from the bank over the years.
“Our most recent loan was for US$15,000 to buy a tractor,” she says.
“We have made some progress because of ACLEDA Bank. We can work more easily on the land and can buy more land.”
Rainfall is the key in determining how successful Yang Sophol’s crops will be. Last year, there was plenty of rain.
“It was good,” she says. “We grew more than 100 tonnes of corn, and we sold it for $20,000.”
Despite her success, Yang Sophol still listens to advice given to her by ACLEDA’s staff and its manager.
“Whenever we apply for money, the bank officials give me some advice,” she says.
“They always encourage me to grow more, and to diversify – not to depend on one or two crops.”
INTERPRETER: RANN REUY