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Growing for the future: the economic impact of soy bean knowledge

Loeun Tum Hou, 39, is a member of the Kroeung ethnic minority group who lives in a remote area in Ratanak Kiri province nearly 600km from Phnom Penh.

She has been married for 20 years and has seven children, although two of her sons died of illnesses as children as she did not have money for healthcare or treatment. Her family often did not have enough food, surviving by eating fruit and vegetables from the forest and trapping animals to eat or sell so they could buy rice. Her family also planted a small number of cashew trees to harvest for sale. During the rainy season, Tum Hou would try to grow vegetables, but she found this challenging as she did not have experience of this and lacked good seeds. She tried to take care of her children as best she could, but sometimes struggled to afford clothes for them and was not able to send them to school.

This started to change in 2011 when Tum Hou attended technical training on growing soy beans, making use of the land in between her family’s cashew trees. She was selected to become a demonstration farmer which meant she was provided with 10kg of soy bean seeds. She used these to demonstrate the techniques she had learned – such as effective planting methods, maintaining her crop through weeding and how to properly harvest the beans – to show others in the village.

Tum Hou is very pleased about the changes brought about by these new skills. “I have time to prepare land for growing home vegetables and growing upland rice so my family has enough vegetables for consumption. I have good technical skills from my experiences of these new techniques and I have good soy bean seeds for growing. I am now looking to expand my cashew orchard and continue to grow soy beans between the cashew trees.”

The success of these planting activities meant that Tum Hou was soon able to expand her soy beans to cover 1.5 ha, harvesting 1.2 tonnes in 2012. This earned her an income of 4,305,000 riel (approximately USD$1000). She kept 80kg of soy bean seeds so she can continue to grow these in 2013.

This additional income has made a big difference to Tum Hou’s family. “After working with the CHIFS project in my village, my family has money, enough food to eat and good health too. I have money for buy clothes and books so I am able to send my children to school. I also attend a Village Savings & Loans Association (VSLA) savings group and have so far bought chickens, a pig for raising, motorbike, a television, and a mobile phone. My family has also constructed a better house.”

Tum Hou enjoys sharing her experience with women in the village and other ethnic minority people so they can learn how to grow soy beans well. She views her new technical knowledge as a valuable tool that will stay with her forever and is keen to continue putting these skills to good use

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