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Cambodian farmers call for government help during extended drought

A severe drought in northwest Cambodia has destroyed at least 10,000 hectares (24,700 acres) of rice and farmers are calling on the government to provide irrigation and other assistance.

Chak Mao from Mongkol Borey district of Banteay Meanchey province told RFA that thousands of hectares of rice are drying up due to the four-month drought.

She said her six hectares will be destroyed and her family would be forced to seek jobs in neighboring Thailand if there is no rain or assistance from the Cambodian government.

“We have a serious drought,” Chak Mao said, adding that villagers are praying for rain.

She urged the government to help the farmers by providing irrigation systems or reservoirs.

A farmer who declined to be named said he stands to lose a significant sum of money because he hired workers for 20 hectares of land his family owns in addition to the three hectares they farm themselves.

“We have some irrigation systems, but we don’t have reservoirs to store water, so when there is no rain,” he said. “We don’t have water.”

Farmers in Thailand have access to stored water so their crops don’t dry up during periods without rain, he said.

Hoeuk Heng said farmers like him face financial ruin: “If we don’t have rain, we will abandon it. We will abandon it, and it will die.”

As she watched her husband pump water onto her rice field, Chhun Sory said they had collected some rain from a shower the night before. But they still need help.

“I’m afraid that we don’t have any more seedlings to farm,” she said. “I want an irrigation system and for the government to help us so we have water for farming.”

Commune head Chea Ty said he will continue to work to get the water for farmers.

Roth Da Sinong, governor of Mongkol Borey district, said the drought has affected three communes there, though he did not know exactly how many hectares of crops were destroyed.

Theng Savoeun, cofounder of the Coalition of Cambodian Farmer Community, urged the government to prepare long-term measures and to provide seedlings free of charge.

“During the drought with a lack of water and lack of markets, local authorities must play a vital role to resolve the crisis for the people,” he said.

Translated by Samean Yun for RFA Khmer. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.