In the previous article, we have spoken about KCD’s awareness on hygiene campaign as a part of immediate response to the new threats brought by COVID-19. Today we will have a look at how KCD is addressing issues of food and economic security during the pandemic.
It is well known that the virus has resulted in an economic crisis around the world. For Prek Chrey this issue has also become crucial. As many businesses closed, many people in the community have lost their jobs. Siv also mentions that, as many ethnic Vietnamese depend on foods that they bring from the market in Vietnam, closing the border has threatened their food and economic security. Therefore, people had to search for alternative ways of income generation and ensuring their food security.
Kimmoy mentions, that as a part of immediate response to the escalating crisis, KCD has not only distributed soaps and masks to the locals but also organic seeds as a means of supporting local small-scale agricultural production.
Ran Ren, along with other KCD field staff has happened to be a role model in his home community for promoting home gardening and sustainable agriculture. “Before I did not have much time to work on my home garden, but I tried to do my best. During coronavirus, I started to pay more attention to it and tried to promote home gardening, not only by giving seeds but also by being a role model. Now I have people from the village coming to my home because I have the seeds from KCD. So, when they come, I not only give them seeds but also show them the garden and explain to them how to grow vegetables. I’m also happy to have a garden because it supports my family daily nutrition needs.” – he says.
Jikhiet, Ran’s neighbour from Prek Chrey village says that after giving her the seeds, Ran encouraged her to start a home garden at her backyard. Now she has been doing it for one month and has already got some results. She says that now she can cover her family’s daily needs in vegetables and is very happy that the food is organic.
She is supported by her neighbour Phan, who lost her job at the casino at the border due to COVID-19. Phan also mentions that the seeds and guidance that KCD staff has provided, helped her to start a home garden three weeks ago. Now she can already enjoy organic vegetables for her family. Moreover, both ladies mention that now they can also sell some of the vegetables they grow which is contributing to their family’s income “It helps me a lot because I don’t need to spend money to buy vegetables. I just buy a little bit of meat. And sometimes I sell my vegetables and use this money to buy meat.” – she says. Both of them are eager to continue doing home gardening even when the situation with the virus gets better. Phan explains that before the pandemic she used to work at the kitchen in the casino and their clients have always favoured organic food. So, in future, she hopes to sell vegetables from her garden to the casino’s restaurant to make some extra income.
Ran and other KCD field staff find this very satisfying. They mention that now they can see more and more people in their community doing home gardening. Kimmoy says that people were very happy to get seeds from KCD, as this comes as big support for their food needs during the difficult times. Ran also mentions that local authorities were very positive about this initiative and are now thankful to KCD.
Most of KCD field staff are doing the home gardens as well. They say that it is important to serve a role model for their home community and to provide advice and technical assistance to the beneficiaries. “I see that this is a good opportunity to start to expand home gardening activities in the community and promote organic agriculture.”, Ran says, “before it was difficult to encourage people to do the home gardening, now they are eager to do this. So, Coronavirus was the reason why people started to do this“. He is especially concerned about many farmers using chemical pesticides and fertilizers and wants to promote natural fertilizers like compost in his community. He is very positive about this plan as he mentions that during Corona, people started to think more about health, so they use compost and other natural fertilizers, improve their organic gardening skills and share the experience with the others.
People not only rely on help from KCD, but also take action themselves, says Kimmoy as she shows her uncle’s small fish farm. Ran supports, saying that chicken production in the community has now increased too. Phan is also interested in fish farming and wants to learn more about it.
KCD staff stress out that home gardening has largely been beneficial for the community. However, seeds distribution campaign has not always reached its goal. Ran and Siv sadly notice that some people, especially those living in the villages that get flooded during the rainy season, have decided to keep the seeds for the next agricultural season, as they were not sure they would have enough time to harvest their vegetables. Mom Rachany (Community Development Project Officer) mentions that around 74% of the people that got seeds from KCD have used them, the rest decided to wait for next year. Ran also mentions that home gardens were mostly started by people who live in the places that don’t get flooded during the monsoon.
Even though COVID-19 has brought us serious challenges, we can still see some positive dynamics in the community. People have started to pay more attention to organic home gardening, which is enormously satisfying for us. It gives us the motivation to continue and serves a great source of inspiration.