Wednesday, 2 February 2011

How's Your Rice? ....

Kampong Chhnang, Two hours north of Phnom Penh.  Sunday.

We have started to get a little more insight into what issues are affecting the lives of modern day Cambodians. Malcolm - Tony’s cousin who’s lived here for 6 years - has been brilliant.  We have been so lucky to have his knowledge of the country.

We are staying in a farm-stay here. At one point I thought I was going to have to share a bed with Tony ... Tony thought he was going to share a bed with me ... we were both nervous.  In the end Tony blinked first and I was able to act as a lone MacDonalds Drive Thru for most of the mosquitos in the area.

We walked for about three hours through the paddy fields and the lotus.  We met farmers.  They spoke a different language and have a subsistence existence but they still reminded me of speaking to farmers in the UK.  Mostly laid back, liked a joke and a news.  The normal greeting is an almost singing, saying “How’s your rice?”.  Which reminded me of a  Scottish saying - “Foo’s yer Coos?”

The fields were mostly only appropriate for dry season rice.  The Meekon (which is miles away) overflows in the wet season (June to September ... its getting shorter) and the paddys we were walking sometimes were flooded with 5 metres of water.  Margins for a hectare (the average size of farm we were seeing) are poor and after a family is fed there isn’t a lot of cash coming in.  Loans are usually taken and when all crop is sold and the debt paid ... they are back at square one. Its the one slender thing, amidst the poverty and extremely basic living, I felt I had in common with them!

Dry season rice needs water pumped into the paddy fields; wet season crop relies on the natural rains ... the “working with nature” option is more profitable.  The farming craze in the area is Lotus.  Its leaves and petals can be eaten, its seed head used for decoration ... but my ignorance reckons this is a niche crop with limited life expectancy ... its definitely not rice.  They have to pump water into these fields 24 hours a day but expect a slightly better end price.

In the evening we had a 64 old lady farmer come and speak to us. She radiated an unstated wisdom but looked 94. She’d spent most of her waking life bent over in a paddy field.  It was a special hour listening to her.

Farming in Cambodia is hard beyond what I can fully appreciate.  The lack of mechanisation makes you realise how our own hands are not enough to progress.  The ingenuity, innovation and thought of those special people in the UK’s farming past ... the inventors, the early adopters, the thinkers ... the forces that have got us to where our industry is today ... should be worshiped on a daily basis. 

1 comment:

fat sam said...

it was nice to see you all ,take care from malcolm ,fat sam, lin alice ,lisa the terminter and david ,have a safe and good trip