CHINESE COMPANY HELPS CAMBODIAN ECO-VILLAGE REDUCE POVERTY

SIEM REAP-- As the biggest foreign investor in Cambodia, China is an all-around partner to the South Asian country, with cooperation ranging from the high-tech telecom network construction to specific agricultural technique for modern farming.

Run Ta Ek, a pilot eco-village located about 20 km from the Angkor world heritage site in Cambodia's northwestern Siem Reap Province, now benefits from agricultural cooperation between the two countries to alleviate poverty.

Founded in 2004, the 1,012-hectare eco-village can accommodate around 850 families. Most villagers did not make a living by farming before moving here.

Therefore, the government offered 20 hectares of land in the village to Forword Company from southwest China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region to implement a gardening and farming pilot project for the next 20 years.

Moreover, homes and land are free to 101 families who volunteered to move in, said Mey Marady, director of the Run Ta Ek eco-village development project.

The pilot project started in October last year, and 32 greenhouses were set up for planting vegetables and fruits, said Thoeng Fy, assistant to Lan Tianhao, chairman of Forword (Cambodia) Agricultural Development Co. Ltd.

The company also built a small vegetable yard open for all villagers with the main purpose to show and teach agricultural technique to local farmers, Fy said, adding that his company will also buy the products from local farmers and then export them to China or other countries.

"They teach us, transfer to us their knowledge, and after we produce vegetables and food, they will buy them back," Marady said, pointing out that this buying-back policy really gives the farmers confidence in long term development.

"We appreciate (their involvement in the project), and in Cambodia, it goes that 'a good friend is a friend who helps us when we are in need,' so they come when we really in need," she said.

Tith Ouch, a mother of three, counted on her husband who worked as a construction worker and made 150 U.S. dollars a month before moving into the village seven years ago. And now her family earns up to 450 U.S. dollars per month.

The 35-year-old woman sells Moringa's leaves and grains in exchange for one million riel (250 U.S. dollars), and the couple's job as agricultural workers in the village earns them a bonus of 100 U.S. dollars each month.

"The income is not enough, but it makes our livelihood better if compared to before," said Ouch.

"We're happy to live here because we can earn more money than we were at our old village," she said.

Chhieu Nam, a deputy director of the agriculture and community development department of the Apsara Authority, which manages the 401-square-kilometer Angkor archeological park, also said the pilot project was very helpful to farmers in the village.

"This project provides a good farming technique for the farmers, and we hope that the now 101 families living in the eco-village will get this technique and use it on their farmland," he said.

Agriculture is one of the four sectors supporting the Cambodian economy and also an important part in cooperation between China and Cambodia. According to the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC)'s report, China invested 53 million U.S. dollars in Cambodia's agricultural sector in 2016.

"China provides not only agricultural theories and capital, but also practical techniques and human resource training to help sustainable agricultural development in Cambodia," said Lan Huiyan, executive director of Cambodia-China Agricultural Promotion Center.

By July, Forward Company has introduced 27 crop varieties to local farming after experiments and trained over 2,000 Cambodian university students, farmers and agricultural professionals.

"China and Cambodia are very complimentary in agricultural cooperation. With the advantages in farming and processing techniques, marketing channels, Chinese companies can help Cambodia develop more modern farms, create more jobs and sell more products in China and other Asian countries," said Lan.

Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK