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Brain food for Cambodia’s next generation

By Amelia Poxon, CARE Communications Coordinator, July 2010

Chana Roun and her daughter used to walk over three kilometres each day through the highlands of Cambodia's north-east in search of food. Ratanak Kiri Province suffers throughfour months of severe food insecurity each year and, like Chana, most families turn to thesurrounding forests with their children to search for food to get them through the hungryseason.

It would take hours to find enough fruit, berries and plants in the forest to feed their family,and the pair would often be away all day and still return with very little. It's easy to understand why Chana now looks over the neat rows of sprouting vegetables with such an enormous look of satisfaction. She has learnt to build and maintain her own home garden through CARE's Cambodia Highlands Food Security project (CHiFS).‘Before CARE, we didn’t have enough vegetables to eat in our family. Now we haveenough,’ she beams, adding ‘We have more food to eat and also have income from selling vegetables so we can buy food ingredients for cooking.

The project which provided Chana with the skills and resources to provide vegetables for herfamily all year is part of the long-running Highland Community Program, which aims to increase education opportunities for children.

So what is the link between cabbages and classrooms? When your greatest concern is starvation, it is understandable that the search for food takes priority over education. But with flourishing vegetables at her doorstep, Chana happily sends her daughter to school instead of in search of food.‘Now our children can go to school because we have the garden near the house and we can collect food easily. We can also get income to buy things for the children so they can go to school. I feel very happy that we have enough vegetables to eat in our family and that CARE provided resources for our training. It really helps my family a lot.

’While her daughter sits in class and makes the most of the education that is rarely availableto the hunter and gather girls in her community, Chana is helped in the garden by herhusband, who is not only impressed with his wife’s new found skills, but also the contribution she’s making to support their family.

‘My husband helps me with the land preparation and fence preparation. He sees that I’m reducing expenditure in the family, and is starting to understand the value that I can contribute to the family’s well-being too.’

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