Sesame farmers in Pailin municipality say they have planted their crops up to three different times this season in an attempt to replace plants lost because of the country’s worst drought in years.
“I am replanting my sesame—because the one I planted in March was damaged by drought. I planted twice, and other people did three times,” farmer Kem Rin said. “We always are watching clouds and pray for rain every day. When a cloud is dark, I am happy.”
The farmers partially blame the government for their problems, accusing it of failing to build adequate irrigation systems.
Ngor Pin, secretary of state at the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, said that the government has had to proceed slowly in building irrigation systems because it lacks funds.
“We need many millions of dollars for an irrigation structure in the whole country. It is too much, but [primarily] we are repairing and building some canals and dams to store water and irrigate [land] for farmers,” he said.
Kong Duong, director of the Information Department for Pailin municipality, said even if the replanted crops survive, they will produce only 50 percent to 70 percent of their normal yield because the ground has been damaged by the drought.
“Now it is starting to rain, but it does not happen in every place,” Kong Doung said.
Sok Dany, a former Khmer Rouge soldier who is now a farmer in Pailin, called on the government to step up its efforts, comparing the government’s current irrigation policies to those of the Khmer Rouge.
“I do not praise the Khmer Rouge regime, but it was doing rightly as it had focused on irrigation structure and dams for agriculture,” Sok Dany said. “If it rains, we are lucky, and if there is no rain, we will be in debt and more debt.”