Svay Duong Heung: New Approaches to the Harvest
Rice farming is the most important agricultural activity among Cambodian smallholder farmers. Although many farmers find success with rice, thousands of others lack the technical knowledge and skills in planting and cultivating to effectively support themselves. Farmers in the Banteay Meanchey Province, in particular, have a limited understanding of appropriate rice growing techniques, fertilizer application, and pest management. In reponse to these limitations, IIRR Cambodia, with financial support from Germany’s GIZ development agency, has provided training to Banteay Meanchey farmers about intensive rice growing techniques.
Svay Duong Heung is one of the farmers who attended IIRR’s training sessions. He lives with his wife, Nun Rom, and his six children in Popel Village, in the Preah Netre Preah District of Cambodia’s Banteay Meanchey Province. Both Heung and his wife recognized their need for an increased yield and income from their rice farm and decided to see if IIRR’s trainings could help them achieve these goals.
At the sessions, Heung learned about appropriate fertilizer application, the importance of selecting purified seeds, new methods for land and water management, and proper strategies for cultivating seedlings and managing pests. IIRR also encouraged Heung to change his planting date from the very beginning of the rainy season to several weeks later, so as to account for potential droughts and other climate variations that often occur at the start of the season. Heung said, “We reduced vulnerability from erratic rainfall and prolonged drought in the rainy season. Even more importantly, we received a far higher yield compared to our pre-training yields.”
IIRR also encouraged Heung to try two smaller rice productions per year, rather than the one large cycle to which Heung was accustomed. The first cycle is from October to January—near the end of the rainy season—and the second is from April to July, nearer to the beginning of the rainy season. Since the first planting, Heung’s rice yield has increased by 34%. Heung has harvested 36.2 tons of rice a net profit of $1800 USD from each planting.
The income Heung has generated from his new approaches to rice planting has been used to cover his daily expenses, the education of his children, and his new agricultural investments. Last year, Heung invested $800 USD in a water pump, a rehabilitated canal, and a small pond. Both Heung and his wife have gained new confidence in their business and have enthusiastically spread IIRR’s rice-growing techniques to other farmers in their community.