Villagers Cope With Flooded Rice Fields

put sar village, Takeo Province – Cambodia’s floods haven’t left Put Sar village untouched.

Nuon Kel is worrying about mice invading his remaining, undamaged field of rice before the December harvest. Out of three hectares of rice, two hectares belonging to him and his wife Hor Kim Hong, 50, were destroyed by the flooding.

Rice fields on the lowland side of the village have generally been wiped out. But Nuon Kel’s one good hectare sits on the other side of the road, on high ground.

“We worry that more and more mice and crabs will migrate from the flood damaged fields to eat our rice and make holes in the dikes,” he says.

Village chief Kuch Chen, 43, says about 170 of the village’s 320 families have been affected by the floods.

Most of those families have had rice fields destroyed. But just 64 of the poorest families have received aid from the government, says Kuch Chen. They were given 25 kg of rice, noodles, canned fish and about $5.

Flooding countrywide has destroyed millions of dollars of rice crop since July, leaving thousands of Cambodian families facing food and money shortages.

Usually, Nuon Kel, 59, has to pump water into his good field. But the water level there has been steadily maintained through rainwater and a canal, built during the Pol Pot years, that brings water from the Tonle Bati.

“We are lucky because it has been raining this week,” he says, relaxing at home after lunch. “We might make it through Nov­ember.”

Living is always hard in November and December, says Noun Kel. Food and money can be short as they sell long-term rice to buy short-term seed to be replanted in January and February.

Nuon Kel has 24 kg of long-term rice in reserve, held over from last year’s harvest. Some of it lays in front of his home, chickens pecking at it as it dries in the sun.

“[But at least] they are my hens. If they eat my rice, my property doesn’t go anywhere,” he says.




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