Working with USAID over the past three years, I have had the opportunity to see tremendous growth and change in many countries, and that impact has been particularly felt in Cambodia as part of Feed the Future, President Obama’s global hunger and food security initiative. Feed the Future supports countries in developing their own agriculture sectors to generate opportunities for economic growth and trade that help reduce poverty and hunger. Agriculture sector growth has proven to be an effective way of reducing poverty, and Feed the Future’s efforts contribute significantly to President Obama’s goal of ending extreme poverty within two decades. The initiative works with families that rely on agriculture for their livelihood, helping them grow more food, raise their incomes, improve their nutrition, and learn farming techniques that enable sustainable income and production for generations.
During my most recent visit to Cambodia, I was able to see these changes taking place first-hand. I visited 62-year-old Mrs. Koy Muot, who, through techniques learned via Feed the Future, was able to increase her vegetable production and sell a portion of that as a result. Her income doubled from one short growing season, illustrating the important felt impact this program is having. Even more compelling was her newfound ability to reinvest in her family by purchasing school books and clothes for her grandson and more seeds for her garden next season.
Mrs. Muot was able to make these changes through Feed the Future’s HARVEST program, which helps Cambodians improve on all aspects of food security, from production and access to nutrition in the country while also helping farmers adapt their production techniques to make them more resilient to climate change. She learned about drip irrigation, water use and pest management in classes. She was provided with basic equipment and supplies she would need to implement her newly learned farming practices in exchange for her time, land and labor. She allowed her land to be used as the demonstration plot, with a garden on one side using traditional techniques and on the other side, a garden using HARVEST techniques. I have to say, the difference between the two plots was remarkable. The HARVEST side showed a lush garden full of mouth-watering vegetables, while on the other side sat a choked patch of land struggling to survive.
With her newly learned agriculture skills, Mrs. Muot was able to more than double her income, from $30 a year to $66. Now, every year, she can sell as much as 485 lbs (220 kg) of amaranth, morning glory and long-bean, and keep 100 pounds (45 kg) for her and her family to enjoy.
“After I joined the program, I learned new techniques to grow vegetables. The production now is much better than the traditional way. I consume some and sell the rest. Now I can support my children and grandchildren,” said Koy.
The Feed the Future HARVEST program works in four provinces around the Tonle Sap Lake, Pursat, Battambang, Siem Reap and Kampong Thom areas of Cambodia with some of the highest rates of poor and food insecure families but some of the best opportunities to address these issues through improved agricultural practices. Together with the help of 22 Cambodian NGOs, USAID has worked with and assisted over 47,000 households and beneficiaries including 102 schools and health centers in more than 461 villages.
I’m proud of the hard work that my colleagues at USAID in Cambodia have done with our partners there to make Mrs. Muot’s life better – and those of generations that follow her.
Learn more about Feed the Future’s work in Cambodia.