Drought-Stricken Farmers Ask Gov’t for Help

About 150 farmers, officials and parliamentarians met Wednesday for a public forum to discuss ways to improve crop yields and their market value.

Farmers from the drought-stricken provinces of Takeo, Kandal, Kompong Chhnang and Kompong Speu urged the government to restore immediately dams that could hold water for irrigation and to find markets here and abroad for Cambodian pro­duce. In addition, the farmers urged the government to establish affordable processing plants —possibly funded by private investors—to help them prepare produce for the market. They also asked for better rural roads to re­duce transportation costs and, ul­timately, the market price of their goods.

Agricultural experts and experienced farmers testified to the harmful effects of some commonly used fertilizers and insecticides. They warned that these treatments are polluting rural water tables, hurting fish populations and causing weeds to choke bodies of water. The experts encouraged farmers to learn about the chemicals they use and how to apply them properly.

The farmers then demanded that the government teach them modern cropping techniques. Keo Sophat, a farmer from Kom­pong Speu province, said that because the government does not educate local farmers, some attend privately run training sessions that cost up to $150.

Nuth Sakhan, director of Agro­n­­­omy and Land Manage­ment for the Ministry of Agri­cul­ture, Forestry and Fisheries, told the farmers that many of their requests were not affordable but his department will work to im­prove the market, improve ir­ri­gation and disseminate efficient farming practices.

Reay Sokun, deputy director of Agricultural Planning, said inspectors will be dispatched Aug 19 to assess drought-damaged crops. Their findings will guide the distribution of 3,000 tons of rice to the hardest hit areas.


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