Do you know what a Rice Dragon is? It translates as is Niek Srer in Cambodian language. It is a tool designed by a women farmer group to help farmers, especially women, removing the weed with less intensive labour, save time, and increase yield. It’s also the name of an Oxfam supported project in Cambodia. Let Ouch Savy explains:
Carrying a rice dragon on her shoulder and ready to step into the rice paddy for weeding, Ouch Savy, 43-year old farmer and a leader of an agriculture service team, explains that she and her colleagues were hired to transplant direct rice seeds in an area facing serious droughts.
“Due to the impact of droughts, farmers in my village have changed their cultivation habit from traditional farming to transplanting direct rice seeds. It is hard for farmers, women in particular, to grow rice when there is not enough water,” said Savy.
In fact, in many parts of Cambodia, farmers are struggling to cultivate their fields because of droughts. Farmers like Ouch Savy from Sdouk village, in the south west of the country, started their cultivation late because there was not enough water and no irrigation systems.
While drought is becoming a severe issue for farmers, shortage of labour in agriculture sector is even worse. Savy says that in her village many young men and women migrate to the city to work in garment factories. They don’t want to do farming, only their parents stay and continue farming.
In response to these issues, Oxfam and its local partner, RACHANA, formed an agriculture service team to support the farmers, especially women, by training them in different agricultural techniques, that make rice tillers stronger and its roots deeper.
Equipped with these new skills and knowledge, they can better face the challenges of climate change and drought.
Speaking slowly with her tears falling down on her face, Long Yean, a 58-years old widow and a member of the service team, said she felt hopeless living alone in this village without any relatives, but when the agriculture service team was created, she was very happy because she learned skills and earned an income by providing services to other farmers. “I have never thought about having an NGO coming to help and train me in these skills.”
Within three weeks, the service team earned almost $2000 from their activity.
“When the rice is growing well, farmers trusted us and felt more confident in the quality of the service our team offered,” says Savy.
There is now such a high demand for the service team, that farmers who need support from this group must call 2-3 days in advance.