Case Study: Helping Farmers to Increase Yields and Knowledge
A group of women farmers, some holding rice dragons (a type of tool used for weeding) and others holding Nokia phones in their hands, walk along the dike of the rice fields, laughing. One cries out “Look! The rice is so green and growing well”. This represents the joyful voice of the women farmers of the agriculture service team in Sdouk village in Takeo province. They were hired to do weeding in a few hectares of the rice fields that were planted using SRI methods such as land preparations and transplanting a single rice in row and direct seeds.
Carrying a rice dragon on her shoulder and ready to step into the rice paddy for weeding, Ouch Savy, a 43-year old female farmer and team leader of the agriculture service team, said her team was hired to transplant direct rice seeds in this area when it faced a serious drought a few months ago.
In many parts of Cambodia, especially in Takeo province, farmers are struggling to cultivate their land in drought conditions. Farmers like Ouch Savy of Sdouk village started their cultivation very late because there was not enough water and the area did not have enough irrigation systems for farming.
Farmers remain vulnerable to unreliable weather and climate change makes it even harder to predict rainfall. Since they rely on rainfall for cultivation and good yields are linked to a sufficient water supply, the timing of sowing is crucial. Some farmers plant early while others are more cautious and start sowing later in the monsoon.
“Because of drought, farmers in my village have changed their cultivation habit from traditional farming to transplanting direct rice seeds. When there is not enough water, it is very hard for farmers, especially women, to grow rice” said Savy.
While drought is emerging as an important issue for farmers in Takeo province, shortage of labor in the agriculture sector is even worse. Savy said, in her village lots of young men and women are migrating to the city of Phnom Penh to work in garment factories. Many of them do not want to work in agriculture. Only their parents stay home and continue farming, Savy added.
Agriculture Service Team
In response to these issues, Oxfam and local partner-RACHANA based in Takeo are forming agriculture service teams to train volunteer farmers, especially women, in technologies such as SRI, and business and promotion skills that can help them to adapt to the challenges of climate change and drought. They are also able to offer SRI planting services to smallholder farmers in their communities.
The agricultural service team trains farmers in the following techniques:
Transplanting a single rice in row, and Transplanting Direct Rice Seeds-farmers are trained to use the rice seeds to plant in the field. Planting direct rice seeds will make tillers of rice stronger and the root deeper. When the rice root is growing deeply in the soil, it will be strong enough to survive flooding or drought.
Land Preparation- They are taught to prepare the land by making the farm dike strong. This helps them to manage water levels and keep the fertilizers in the field for which they also plough the soil two to three times, at least to reach 15cm deep.
Seeds Selection: farmers are trained to carefully select only the best rice seeds.
Weeding- farmers are encouraged to use rice dragons for weeding. It helps to remove weeds as well as aerate the soil which makes the rice grow better.
Making Compost- farmers are trained in how to make natural compost which can be sold for use with vegetable, crop and rice farming instead of chemical fertilizers.
The service team is also trained on how to work with their customers and on other related agriculture skills.
“It is very important for our service team and me to equip with skills that can help farmers to increase their rice production. In the past, my family was very poor and we did not have enough food to eat for the whole year.” said Savy, “But being part of the service team, I have knowledge to increase my rice production and can earn extra incomes to support my family.”
Pushing a rice dragon backwards and forwards to remove the weeds, Koy Hour, a43 year old female farmer from the service team, says she wants to have more knowledge particularly of agriculture because she didn’t receive much education. She stopped attending school when she was in grand one because her father asked her to take care of her younger siblings.
“The knowledge from RACHNA is very useful to help women farmers and myself to grow fast. Training gives us the knowledge to support our life and to improve our family,” said Hour.
Speaking slowly with her tear falling down on her face, 58 year old Long Yean, a widow and member of the service team, - said, previously she was very hopeless living alone in this village without any relatives after her husband passed away.
“When NGO created this agriculture service team, I was so excited and happy because it provides the agriculture skills and jobs for me to earn money. I have never thought to have NGO coming to help and train me the skills.” said Long Yean.
The agriculture service team of was created a few months ago with 22 members 19 of whom are women, including Savy, Hour and Yean. So far, it has been ordered continuously to transplant a single rice in row and direct seeds, weeding and other agriculture services. Savy said her team is very busy at the moment.
“We have exchanged phone number with other farmers to contact our service. There are a lot of demands and market for our group currently. If they want our service group to farm for them, they have to call for booking at least two or three days before farming date.” said Savy.
In one hectare of rice paddy, the service team needs to spend at least one morning with all 22 members to finish either transplanting a single rice in row or direct seeds. For a whole day’s work, they need at least 15 people. The service team only charges $3 per day per person if they are hired to farm in their village, outside of their village this cost must either include lunch or increases to $3.50.
In three weeks, the service team earned almost $2000 from selling their labor.
Savy said farmers saw the quality of our service and the rice growing well in the fields. “They are happy and feel confident in our team.”