Tshering Dorji inspects a farmfield in Kahain together with his Cambodian colleagues Keam Makarady and Sa Voeun Vong. Kahain, a small village in the Kampong Speu province, has experienced severe drought in the last months. The drought has left rice fields idle too long, making farmers frustrated and anxious about next year’s income.
– Farmers here had to sow their rice late. We estimate that their crop may be as much as 30 percent below a normal year, says Keam.
– Therefore, it is important to supply the farmers with alternatives for them to grow on the side. Plants here such as tomato, squash, ginger and cabbage are all from Bhutan, Tshering continues.
Tshering, himself a Bhutanese, is on exchange to the Cambodian organization Cambodian Center for Study and Development in Agriculture (CEDAC) for 12 months, trying to figure out common solutions to the direct consequences of climate change felt by farmers. Climate change has made its impact here, leaving half of the region south of the capitol arid, and the other flooded. But not all rain is of help. Acid precipitation will stunt growth just like drought. The solution is to adapt, says Tshering and his colleagues.
For that, the cooperation involves exchanging plant seeds, cultivation techniques and smart ways to utilize output. In addition, the team trains farmers from the whole region in composting of biological waste, and use the gas of that for lights and cooking.
– More diverse cultivation is beneficial for the soil, increases income and savings. Farmers in our program are now able to buy livestock, which makes work in the field easier, and increases the amount of compost. Those still unable to afford livestock can get micro loans up to 50 USD through CEDAC, says Tshering.