Permaculture hits Siem Reap at orphan-run Harmony Farm

Permaculture hits Siem Reap at orphan-run Harmony Farm

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090514_06c.jpg

Photo by: JASON LEAHEY

Sian Vannak and Hoeuy Han at Harmony Farm.

TWO young Cambodians, Sian Vannak and Hoeuy Han, hope to transform agriculture in Siem Reap through permaculture, a system that emulates relationships found in nature to maximise organic agricultural yield while minimising the use of resources, funds and human labour.

They formed the Cambodian Children Rural Development Organisation in August 2007 to create a self-sustaining homestead for rural orphans. 

With money from sponsors, they purchased a 90-metre-by-125-metre plot of land across the road from Beng Mealea temple, and named it Harmony Farm.

They are designing the farm according to the principles of permaculture.   

"I grew up in the orphanage," Sian Vannak said. "There are many poor children in the countryside, but the orphanages are in town. I want to teach the children from the countryside to help themselves."

The pair have built a prototype of their future farm in the backyard of the orphanage and school.

In covered trays they experiment with fruit tree saplings to determine which species are hardy enough for the farm's rocky soil. 

Nearby, they compost rainwater, cow manure and human urine in a large cistern to create nutrient-rich, sprayable fertiliser for the lettuce and soup vegetables growing in compact plots. 

Lemon verbena and lemongrass are scattered throughout to serve as insect deterrents and soup ingredients, fulfilling the principle that garden elements should "stack" multiple functions.

Next week, they begin construction on a compost toilet designed by Sian Vannak, which filters human waste into useful fertiliser.

The pair learned about permaculture last December in a course at Siem Reap's Singing Tree Cafe, and efforts are under way to host another course next December.

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