Poverty Alleviation

Cambodia

Sarat Npom, a farmer living in Kandal Province, received training in organic farming by Khmer Community Development and has been growing vegetables organically now several months, and is keen to learn more about drip irrigation to improve his crop yield. Visiting at the end of the dry season it is easy to see why access to a water supply is so crucial. Sarat has a small street stall where he is selling pumpkins, tomatoes, cucumber, gourds, long beans and four different types of leafy vegetables. He also has a mango tree, banana trees and a fine collection of ducks giving him a regular supply of eggs for sale. His field is small, and is rented from a neighbour for US$30 per year, but there is no certainty that the neighbour will be willing to lease it to Sarat in future years as the neighbour is growing GM crops using irrigation methods and selling his crop to a trader and so may well want the land to increase his own crops. When Sarat started farming he had no money, and no land, but was able to borrow to lease the field. In the six months Sarat has been farming, he has generated enough income to repay the loan to lease the field, and the US$600 to move and rebuild his house. He is hoping to buy a larger field nearby, at a cost of US$2,500. Sarat has benefitted from being on the community committee involved in agriculture, and while he was in school he had little interest in learning how to read and write, now he wants to learn!

Photo QSA

India

QSA’s project partner Pitchandikulam Forest in Tamil Nadu, South India, has been providing training in the growing of herbal plants for the production of local remedies as well as providing raw material for the local healers who use traditional medicines in their pharmacopeia. Using funding from QSA and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade – Australian Aid, there has been training in seed collection, how to grow a variety of indigenous plants, and how these plants can benefit health and wellbeing. The herbs are made into medicines, herbal teas and included in general cooking. A recent initiative of the establishment of a herbal food production unit in the village of Vandipalayam has been built on the increasing community interest in herb products and the income generating opportunities they present.

The Meera Herbal Food Unit encourages the concept that ‘food is medicine, and medicine is our food.’ The Meera herbal food products include over ten types of herbal chutneys, herbal flours and batter and other powders that are used as traditional food supplements. The products produced are labelled in the local language using local terms to encourage the revival of traditional knowledge regarding the health benefits of the ingredients.

The women have been trained in herbal plant collection, semi processing, preparation of food, book keeping and marketing aspects. Traditional knowledge plays an important role here, as many of the ingredients are known to the community and are easy identified and consumed. 15 women have been trained in the collection and production of herbal food so far.

They have built a good team and have learnt business management and record keeping skills. Decisions are discussed together and they value the equal sharing of responsibility, particularly for many of the women for whom this is a new concept. Currently they are making an income of Rs120 ($2.50) per day which is making a difference in their lives as the following two stories illustrate.

All photos in this edition of QSA Notes are credited to Pitchandikulam Forest and permission has been given for the photos.