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Poverty pilot sows seeds of optimism

China Daily | Updated: 2017-08-01 07:42

Farmers hail benefits of Chinese company's agriculture project

SIEM REAP, Cambodia - As the biggest foreign investor in Cambodia, China cooperates on everything from the high-tech telecom network construction to modern agricultural techniques.

Now, Run Ta Ek, a pilot eco-village in Cambodia's northwestern Siem Reap province, is benefiting from an initiative to alleviate poverty.

Founded in 2004, the 1,012-hectare project can accommodate around 850 families. Most villagers did not make a living by farming before moving here.

The government offered 20 hectares of land in the village to Forword Company from southwest China's Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region to implement a gardening and farming project for the next 20 years.

The homes and land are free to 101 families who volunteered to move in, said Mey Marady, director of the project.

The initiative started in October with 32 greenhouses growing vegetables and fruit, said Thoeng Fy, assistant to Lan Tianhao, Chairman of Forword (Cambodia) Agricultural Development Co Ltd.

Open for all

The company also built a small vegetable yard open for all villagers with the main purpose of teaching agricultural techniques to local farmers, Fy said, adding that his company also buy the products from the farmers and export them to China and other countries.

"They teach us, transfer to us their knowledge, and after we produce vegetables and food, they will buy them back," Marady said, pointing out that this buying-back policy really gives the farmers confidence in long term development.

"We appreciate (their involvement in the project), and in Cambodia, it goes that 'a good friend is a friend who helps us when we are in need,' so they come when we really in need," she said.

Tith Ouch, a mother of three, counted on her husband who worked as a construction worker and made $150 a month before moving into the village seven years ago. Now her family earns up to $450 per month.

"The income is not enough, but it makes our livelihood better if compared to before," said Ouch, 35.

"We're happy to live here because we can earn more money than we were at our old village."

Agriculture is one of the four sectors supporting the Cambodian economy and also an important part in cooperation between China and Cambodia. According to the National Bank of Cambodia's report, China invested $53 million in the country's agricultural sector in 2016.

"China provides not only agricultural theories and capital, but also practical techniques and human resource training to help sustainable agricultural development in Cambodia," said Lan Huiyan, executive director of Cambodia-China Agricultural Promotion Center.

By last month, Forword had introduced 27 crop varieties after experiments and trained over 2,000 university students, farmers and agricultural professionals.

"China and Cambodia are very complimentary in agricultural cooperation. With the advantages in farming and processing techniques, marketing channels, Chinese companies can help Cambodia develop more modern farms, create more jobs and sell more products in China and other Asian countries," said Lan.


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