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Villagers receive a green light

Villagers receive a green light

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Men prepare to play volleyball in the village of Cheung Kok, which is thriving thanks to ecotourism.

Before Amica came here I didn’t have anything to do once I finished farming.

The small village of Cheung Kok looks very much like many others in Cambodia, but there again that is part of its charm. The 140 families who live in the village used to depend on rice for their livelihoods, growing only one crop a year due to lack of an irrigation system, until Amica chose the village for an ecotourism initiative.

The French organisation started working with the villagers in 1997, although nothing was implemented until 2000.

“Before Amica came people had nothing to do,” says deputy village chief, Non Siek, 36. Now the villagers sell cotton kramas and various handicrafts in a small shop next to the school.

A few kilometres outside of the provincial capital of Kampong Cham, Cheung Kok is close to the entrance to Phnom Pros, one of the province’s main tourist attractions. “On Saturdays and Sundays 50 to 60 tourists come here in their big buses,” says Non Siek.

“People have changed their living standards,” he says. “They can earn 10,000 riel a day.”

Some villagers make handicrafts, while others sew. One family grows mushrooms.

Hean Khon, 56, weaves. Amica provided her with the money to buy her loom 10 years ago. She has been weaving ever since.

“I can make one or two per day,” says Khon, who sells her krama for US$1.50 to the village shop. “Before Amica came here I didn’t have anything to do once I finished farming.”

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