A FARMER WITH A DISABILITY INSPIRES OTHERS WITH RESILIENT AGRICULTURE TECHNIQUES
Life had been tough for Sok Meach, a 58-year-old farmer with one of his legs amputated, to perform daily activities and support the family until he adopted resilient agriculture techniques and received assistance from agricultural experts working at the System approach to Transformative Economic Empowerment and Resilience (STEER)” Activity, and Koh Kong Provincial Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries.
Mr. Meach formerly served in an army, a role many Cambodian adults were forced to participate in during the Khmer Rouge regime. He lost his leg in 1988 after stepping on an anti-personnel mine buried in Kampong Speu province. Luckily, he could walk using a prosthetic leg and later married Ms. Phoeun Khly.
After their marriage, Mr. Meach and his wife moved to live in Tam Kan village, Kandoal commune, Koh Kong's Botum Sakor district and started to farm for a living. The couple gave birth to four children despite having difficulties supporting meals and other household needs.
"I grew fruit and vegetable crops on small farmland, including cucumbers, watermelons, and corn. I could not move around too long with my prosthetic leg. At that time, the yield was meagre because of the pests and diseases," Mr. Meach recalled.
In November 2020, Mr. Meach visited the farmland of Mr. Chaun Yi, known as a demonstration farmer of the STEER Activity. He was impressed by the healthy crops and fruitful results produced.
Mr. Meach then sought support from Mr. Yi to join the STEER Activity funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) New Zealand. The Activity was carried out by Save the Children in close cooperation with International Development Enterprises (iDE) and the Provincial Department of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries (PDAFF).
In those days, the Activity provided Mr. Meach with a range of training to build his technical skills, including direct advice from agriculture experts under the STEER activity and PDAFF to manage crops better and protect his farm from the destruction caused by climate change and unpredictable weather with the use of the drip irrigation system, fertilizers, and pesticide protection methods.
"I have grown in confidence and was able to produce a higher yield. It's a five-time difference from before I joined STEER," Mr. Meach said. "The resilient agricultural techniques make me smarter and convince me that it's much easier than traditional farming practices."
With his strong commitment and supportive attitude in sharing ideas and helping other farmers in the STEER farmer producer group, Mr. Meach was later elected to become the group's deputy.
"Mr. Meach is a fast learner. He proves to other farmers that a man with a disability can do great farming. He often leads the group, encouraging them to continue working hard instead of giving up when they encounter problems because of climate change," Mr. Yi said.
Recommended by the STEER Activity, Mr. Meach has hosted visits to his farmland and shared his experience with other farmers.
"I have learned much from Mr. Meach about preparing the farmland in dry and rainy seasons. How to grow different crops in cycles. I received a good yield compared to before," said Mr. Som Ngin, a member of the farmer producer group.
Mr. Meach is a living example of the power of resilience. He has overcome many challenges in his life, but he has never given up. He is an inspiration to people everywhere who are determined to succeed.