Helping Farmers Create Climate-Smart Gardens
Sok Tom, 66, greeted us with a friendly smile when we met him at his home garden, 0.5 hectares of land, located in Trapeang Chheu Trav village in Koh Kong Province in southwest Cambodia, about 72 kilometers from central Koh Kong. Mr. Tom has six family members including his wife, son and daughter-in-law, as well as two grandchildren.
Mr. Tom and his wife work as farmers, typically growing luffa vegetables and fruits such as: banana, passion fruits, and durians to sell from his home garden. He tells us that he feels happiest when growing cucumbers as it grows faster and better than luffa.
“I am delighted at growing cucumbers because it grows at double yield compared to growing luffa,” explained Mr. Tom. “I spend about 7.50 US dollars on cucumber seeds to grow cucumbers in my home garden.”
He recalled that other vegetables and fruits in his home garden did not give such high yields and constantly provided a range of challenges, including frequent pests and disease on the plants, a lack of knowledge in how to care for and maintain such diverse crops, especially knowing which seeds to use.
In the past, he said the luffa vegetable required 55 days to grow and produced on a small scale with low prices, whereas the cucumber takes only 30 to 35 days to grow and produces on a much larger scale with a higher selling price.
In early 2020, with funding support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) New Zealand, Save the Children and its partner, The International Development Enterprise (iDE), began implementing the “System Approach to Transformative Economic Empowerment and Resilience (STEER)” project in Mr. Tom’s community. The objective was to provide technical skills to groups of farmers in order to improve their agricultural productivity, income and security, household wellbeing and resilience through a market-based approach.
“After I received training from Save the Children, I tested three rolls of cucumbers on my land of 35 square meters in a 0.7 space for each roll.” Mr. Tom said. With the project’s support in how to choose seeds from standard companies and an effective water system, he put so much effort and joy into looking after his cucumber garden.
Tom’s wife, Ms. Boak Hean, said with a big smile, “Even though I didn’t join the training, my husband shared and taught me while we grew cucumbers together and my grandchildren help us harvest the vegetables as well.”
Mr. Tom ran the water twice a day, once in the morning and at noon time. He also removed and destroyed diseased parts of the plants. He used both manure and agro-chemicals to kill insects and weeds in the garden to ensure the plants stayed clean and healthy.
He put all he has leaned into practice to keep his garden healthy and green, so that it could grow to its fullest potential. “A month later, I found out that I had a large amount of cucumbers, so I decided to change my garden to just grow this plant,” said Mr. Tom. “It gave me 250 kilogrammes so I could sell cucumbers at 1.25 US dollars per kilo. I had a 250 US dollar income to support my family, especially my young grandchildren so that they can enroll in school next year.”
He continued telling us that he sells cucumber in his communities’ market and even sometimes sellers come to buy directly from his home garden. If there are leftover cucumbers, he can turn them into pickles to sell for an even higher price.