Giving Gardens – increasing food security in rural Cambodia
A community member showing off her nourishing organic food garden.
*We are pleased to announce that 2014 has seen an expansion of the Giving Gardens project, thanks to the generous support of Organic Dairy Farmers Australia. To read the update, please visit our blog page here.*
During the rule of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, the economic program involved an all-out push to build capacity for growing and exporting rice. This saw land clearance and forced labour - farming families were forced to clear their diverse crops and instead plant rice for exporting. The agenda forced most families into poverty and hunger – they no longer had a diverse range of nourishing fruit and vegetables and most of the rice they grew was exported. Over time, it also caused the loss of vital food growing skills. Self-sufficiency became a lost art.
Nowadays, 34 years after the regime’s collapse, almost 50% of vegetables consumed in Cambodia are imported from Vietnam. The shortage of locally-produced vegetables means that Cambodian families are forced to pay higher prices for vegetables. Since poor households can spend on average 70% of their income on food, the import trend creates an unhealthy reliance on fish and rice for daily nutrition. In addition, these families have little ability (after purchasing food) to cope with sickness, natural disasters, or other emergencies, which can push them further into food insecurity.
The Giving Gardens project increases the food security of communities in rural Kampot in southern Cambodia, where 50-75% of families are poor, by providing the lost skills and tools needed to grow their own nutritious food using sustainable growing methods.
Giving Gardens reduces the communities’ reliance on imported food from Vietnam and Thailand and increases their food security. The project helps communities become self-sufficient, saves money and provides community members with a healthier and more diverse diet.
The project teaches permaculture methods to enable garden owners to keep their crops watered throughout the dry season.
Our funds have provided training and materials to establish and maintain low cost, low tech, chemical free, sustainable and organic gardens throughout the communities: one model vegetable garden, three community gardens and a pagoda (home to local monks) garden.* The gardens model to community members the benefits of growing their own healthy food and help to build food security in the region. Hosting gardens in the pagoda helps to draw the community to the project, as pagoda’s hold a special significance in Cambodia.
Giving Gardens is a project of Agile Development Group, a grass-roots Australian-owned organisation that develops enterprising solutions based on locally identified social, economic and environmental need.
A family about to plant their first food garden.
What are the environmental benefits of the project?
· Reduction in environmental impacts of food transport as more food is grown locally and not transported from Thailand or Vietnam.
· Unused land or land that was previously used for mono-crops (e.g. rice production) is converted to diverse organic agricultural land where the health of the soil is improved.
· Food gardens become more resilient to climatic changes. In Cambodia, there is an abundance of water one season and none the next. Teaching the communities permaculture and sustainable irrigation methods allows them to effectively manage their food gardens throughout the seasons, giving them a steady supply of food throughout the year.
Many families keep chickens for eggs and an extra source of income.
What are the community benefits of the project?
· A healthier and more diverse diet.
· Income savings as less food needs to be purchased.
· Income savings as organic agriculture does not require extra inputs such as fertiliser and seeds - compost is created using organic matter and seeds are saved for planting in subsequent seasons.
· Securing income generation for families through:
o sustainable organic gardening that will increase crop diversity and crop density
o the raising of chickens for egg sales.
You can help us to further support this project and our other funded projects by donating here or purchasing a product from our online store.
The Giving Gardens Project has now entered phase two, with more gardens and a 'Model Family' scheme. To read about the project update, please visit our blog here.