There’s No Place Like Home

CWS Cambodia | October 3, 2019

    Bunthoeun and some harvested eggplant … ready to be sold. Photo: CWS

    Prom Bunthoeun is 52 years old, and he and his wife, Yorn Sarem, who is 48, have three children ages 17 to 23. The family’s village is called Nikom Kandal, and it is in Battambang province in western Cambodia near the border with Thailand. In the past, the family’s income was from daily wage labor on construction projects in Thailand, where Bunthoeun and Sarem could earn $15 a day. This sounds like a lot of money. But the couple spent most of the money they earned for rent and food in Thailand. So, there was not very much to send back to Nikom Kandal for the children and their grandparents, who lived together.

    Some years ago, Bunthoeun and his wife grew vegetables on land they owned. But they never managed to make ends meet as farmers. So, they decided to leave their land and migrate to work in Thailand. Then, last year, when Bunthoeun came back to visit the family and their difficult situation, it became known to others in Nikom Kandal, including CWS partner, the Rural Development Association, that the family really needed help. So, in 2018 it was agreed that Bunthoeun would join us in an effort to have a better life for his family.

    Like all others who team up with CWS and our partners in Promoting Better Lives, Bunthoeun and Sarem began with the basics of best practice vegetable gardening. Unlike many of the families that CWS work with, Bunthoeun and Sarem had the advantage of owning land – even though they had stopped using it years ago. So, the first thing was to reclaim 800 square meter (1/5th acre). When this was done with CWS material and technical support, the couple started working together to create a sustainable garden. Bunthoeun and Sarem decided to grow eggplant because they knew it would sell well locally. And, by using what they learned about soil preparation, natural fertilizing and pest control and water conservation, they created a flourishing and profitable garden. They earn about $12.50 a day now during a three-month planting, tending and harvesting cycle. With this much income, the family now has enough money to buy rice and other nutritious foods. They never face food shortages like their children and parents did in the past when they only had small remittances from Thailand to live on.

    There is also money for other things: pay for more education for their children invest to expand the garden to also grow cucumbers, another valuable crop. In addition, together with financial support from his oldest son, who works as an electrician in Phnom Penh, Bunthoeun and Sarem now have their middle child enrolled at university while the youngest can now continue high school. This family’s progress toward a life of dignified work and a bit of prosperity is an inspiration to CWS Cambodia team members, and a reminder that it is possible to have enough for all.

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