Women’s Participation in Agriculture Enhance Family’s Livelihood
While walking along her cucumber gardens, Mrs. Orl Eng gives us a big smile and describes how good she feels after expanding the plot to produce more cucumbers. “These are my cucumber gardens, and they are the second planting after my first harvest of a high-yield production,” Mrs. Eng said.
Mrs. Eng, a 38-year-old woman who lives with two daughters in Bak Angrut village, Dangpeng commune, Srae Ambel district, Koh Kong province, is an experienced farmer in growing yard bean, morning glory, and wax gourd for sales, but lacks good techniques. She said she could not cover her family's expenses when she harvested vegetables on a small scale. Her husband had to go into a remote forest to cut trees to earn extra income to support their daily life. She continued, telling us about how worried she would feel when her husband went into the forest. She and her daughters would stay home alone and feared for their family’s safety.
Her husband frequently got sick when he returned home, and Mrs. Eng sometimes had to borrow money from the village credit agency to pay for his treatment and support the family. “Because of our family situation, it was impossible to send my eldest daughter to study at the high school,” Mrs. Eng explained. “We had no vehicle for her, so I decided to have her repeat a class in primary school for a year,” she added.
Srae Ambel high school is far away from her home, and Mrs. Eng felt sorry for holding her daughter back while she waited for neighbours to travel to school with her. Mrs. Eng struggled as she kept growing vegetables for sales around the community for a meagre income.
In 2019, with support from the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), Save the Children and its partner, the International Development Enterprises (iDE), began implementing the “System Approach to Transformative Economic Empowerment and Resilience (STEER)” Activity in Mrs. Eng’s community. The objective was to provide technical skills to farmers' groups to improve their agricultural productivity, income and security, household well-being, and resilience through a market-based approach.
Things have changed since she attended a field day of cucumber production organised by Activity staff. She felt inspired and started to engage in every training session with the STEER Activity actively. She decided to prepare a 400 square meter plot of land to plant cucumbers applying the knowledge she has learned at the technical demonstration farm. She invested approximately US$ 250 on input and other expenses such as cucumber seed, water pumping machine and etc.
She told us that she could sell up to 60 kilograms of cucumbers during daily harvesting to local collectors and generate around US$ 650 in income.
With such a significant profit from her first investment, Mrs. Eng’s husband no longer goes into the forest, instead helps her take care of the cucumber gardens behind their house. Mrs. Eng is thrilled to feel safe again now that they earn enough income to cover their living at home. “My family’s livelihood is now much better than before, and I can send my children to school with good study materials,” Mrs. Eng said.
Mrs. Eng has also encouraged other farmers to see how she grew her cucumbers when she started her second planting. Although she has had success with her cucumber farm, in the future, she would like to see her daughters pursue further education at university.