Community Agriculture Development Project
More than 80% of Cambodians live in rural areas with agriculture as their main source of income. Many of these people live in and off of the forest. Most of these are subsistence farmers undertaking logging and utilizing illegal slash-and-burn and other destructive farming practices to grow their food and make additional money.
Recognizing that the forest was being destroyed by people with no alternative means of existence, in 2004 Wildlife Alliance initiated the Community Agriculture Development Project in Sovanna Baitong village. Sovanna Baitong, which translates as “Golden Green,” was developed by and built for the 187 families who were previously engaged in destructive slash-and-burn farming practices or wildlife poaching. Today, each family lives and works on their own 1.5 hectares of agricultural land growing cash and subsistence crops using modern agricultural methods, including efficient drip irrigation, allowing them to grow crops—and generate income—year round. With the technical assistance of Wildlife Alliance, villagers have created and manage a Community Agriculture Association that oversees agriculture production, marketing of goods, health care, education, natural resource conservation, a savings program, a micro-credit system.
Families grow vegetables for their own consumption, and they grow cash crops to sell in local and regional markets. Wildlife Alliance provides training in modern farming techniques to ensure that a smaller amount of agricultural inputs are used, that soil receives natural compost, and that harvests are spread out, providing income throughout the year. A marketing committee sees that the crops are transported and sold in local marketplaces, and the produce has become so popular that people from around the province have started traveling to the village to buy produce directly from the source. More than 98% of the families now earn well above the initial goal of $40 per month. With their incomes growing, they also have access to education, health care, and a micro credit system to boost agricultural production and start small businesses. Community members now work in concert to make decisions and administer life in the village. Above all, they have achieved a stability they have never known before. Success is measured by the 400 children that now attend school regularly, by the bustling small businesses where visitors can enjoy a coffee or tea, by the truckloads of produce that leave Sovanna Baitong daily and by the number of families who are building solid concrete houses to replace the thatched roof huts they used to call home.
In 2013, the community implemented a Communal Orchard, where a variety of fruit trees are being grown as cash crops. This orchard will not only significantly increase the income generated by the community, but will also move the project towards complete self-sustainabilty.