I visited the Goducate Children’s Home in Cambodia again recently to see what new strategies could be applied to significantly improve food sufficiency for the children and staff at the Home. One of these focuses on rice production at two separate lowland parcels with an aggregate area of 0.8 hectare.
The past attempts in growing rice at the Home led to yields that were dismally low because of poor technology, low level of inputs, and inadequate crop-care activities. With an improved system of rice intensification, outputs can be expected to more than meet the daily staple need of all the residents at the Home for a year.
Hybrid rice is highly recommended because of its superior yield compared with that of inbred varieties. However, if it is not available in Cambodia, a local high-yield variety and preferably certified seeds should be used. Instead of the transplanting method of crop establishment, however, direct seeding should be practiced to save on labor requirements. This will also enable the adoption of an annual rice/rice/upland-crop pattern in the area—a pattern of growing an upland crop after two crops of rice, instead of letting the land lie fallow.
Another recommendation is the raising of Pangasius at one of the vacant fishponds. A riverine catfish found in the Mekong River, Pangasius is a fast-growing species that is excellent for fillet, soup, and broiling. It starts life as an omnivore, but after losing its teeth at 6 months it becomes mostly herbivorous. It can, therefore, thrive on kangkong (a semi-aquatic water plant also known as “water spinach”), sweet potato, and duckweed diets. Under ideal conditions, it can reach a length of 4 feet after 18 months. In Cambodia, the fingerlings can be sourced from fishponds in Phnom Penh.
Duck raising is one other option. A start-up involving 100 month-old ducks can supply the egg needs of Home, starting at 20 weeks of age (average of 285 eggs per bird per year). The excess eggs can be hatched into ducklings.
Other recommendations would be to expand the area planted with Moringa, a plant that can provide many nutrients; to plant sugar cane, because the juice is needed for fermenting animal feeds and brewing vermitea (a liquid fertilizer prepared from compost produced by earthworms); and the establishment of an orchard on the 0.75 hectare idle lot.
Apart from schoolwork, the children at the Home are already involved in agricultural and other livelihood projects, so although these options would widen the skills that they can acquire and increase food sufficiency, resource constraints would limit how the recommendations can be implemented. A step-by-step approach is the most realistic.
The 0.75-hectare idle lot with orchard-growing potential
One of the two lowland parcels suitable for rice growing