Thursday, 3 February 2011

Extreme First Generation Farming, Dude ...

Koh Kong, Cambodia, 10 miles from Thai border.  Wednesday.

We meet a Khmer man called Paddy ... not certain this is his real name! He runs a bar, has a tuk tuk, smiles alot and is a cool dude.  He takes us to the river.  We meet Noy.  Noy is one more notch up on the cool dude numeric scale compared to Paddy ... which is saying something.

Noy speaks excellent English.  He takes us to a tiny village 30 minutes up river.  Each family has their farm of between 1 to 5 hectares. They grow melons, lemongrass, sugarcane, sandalwood and funny looking fruit that I don’t recognise.

The people live on very little here but the entrepreneurs amongst them harvest and sell their excess produce in Koh Kong market.  

There is one in particular who - having been prosecuted for growing marijuana elsewhere (!!) - moved into the village to start again.  He tried doing different things (crops, irrigation methods, fertiliser etc.). Some things were successful.  The other villagers started copying him.  Here was the innovator and driver of wealth creation not just for himself but indirectly a whole community .... I reflect that this might be the closest person to a new entrant I’ll come across in Cambodia.

We stop at a rickety bamboo bridge and we direct another question to Noy ... He answers ... These moments are special and sweet ... We realise he is a first generation farmer ... More questions follow and we realise he is an innovator ... We realise he has an education, an immense knowledge and a mind with its gates wide open. He told us that when he decided to farm, he came to a village ... asked about land ... and was pointed in a direction and told “help yourself”. I am so excited I consider wetting myself.

The Dude, Rona and me ... just before I wet myself
As we continue I also realise this is probably the most extreme first generation farmer I have met. You see, Noy was born in a refugee camp over the Thai border and stayed there until he was 12.  His English is excellent because the UN taught him the language in the camp. He doesn’t know what day he was born as everyone was disorientated as they fled from Cambodia. He never has a birthday.

The camp was hell. Thai soldiers guarded its perimeter with guns and unsmiling stares. No one was allowed to leave. Largely, made up of women and children, if a female strayed too far from the main group they were likely to be raped by the guards.  Food was something that was always given .... never found, harvested, purchased or sold.

I asked him why he wanted to farm ... his quick and definite response was a single word that came from a deep, deep place .... “Freedom”. 


nevil said...

So who is the ritcher, the man who inspires the change or the one who profits? And does the answer depend on which society your in.

Kate said...

A man's soul may be buried and perish under a dungheap or in a furrow of the field, just as well as under a pile of money. ~Nathaniel Hawthorne

From my own point of view it's the man who inspires who is richer. But you'd have to ask the man who inspires how he FEELS about that and what motivated him to make the changes that inspired others?
I think it all depends on the individual, their values, experiences, attitude and outlook on life and of course the society in which they live helps to influence that. So you could say the answer depends on Society. BUT it is often the"crazy's", "dreamers", the square pegs, the "different" ones who dont accept the status quo of / dont fit into their society , who "dare" to think and see things differently, to take action and inspire change in that Society.
there's a common thread in the Philosphers/ intellectuals of differing Cultures/ Society/ eras etc. It runs along the lines that True Richness lies within the soul and not your Monetary worth. That true happiness/ love cannot be bought or sold.
I have assumed you are talking monetary when you ask about the one who profits?

Ordinary riches can be stolen; real riches cannot. In your soul are infinitely precious things that cannot be taken from you. ~Oscar Wilde

A rich man is nothing but a poor man with money.  ~W.C. Fields

Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realise we cannot eat money.  ~Cree Indian Proverb

"I am the most miserable man on earth"
John Jacob Astor [1763-1848 ]
American Fur Company Tycoon--left his children with $20 million at his death in 1848