Deborah Wade-Marshall, a former volunteer at TCO writes about her experience while on a day trip to Kranlanh.
I am an ‘urban-dweller’ from Western Australia and although previous occupations saw me spend considerable time in remote Indigenous communities in my country, I have been enlightened by the enterprise of people in the Cambodian countryside. I have an interest in ‘things agricultural’ and this certainly now extends to Rice Field fisheries and aquaculture.
When I arrived at TCO, they were hosting a National Wetland and Livelihood Expert from the Lower Mekong Basin Wetland Management & Conservation Project. From Phnom Penh, Ms Chea (Seila) is looking at the role that gender plays in aquaculture and aquatic agricultural systems in rural Cambodia. This project is to be continued by Mr. Dy (Piseth), a quite new, and enthusiastic field officer at TCO.
Seila is both charming and competent and generously invited me to sit in on a family interview in Kranlanh village in the
province of the same name. This of course was conducted in Khmer so while my understanding of the language was very limited, it was lovely to observe the easy rapport between the interviewers and the interviewees.
We travelled to the village by motorbike with me as a slightly nervous pillion. After a quick change into long pants and sensible shoes we headed out on our 60 km journey early in the afternoon. This was the time that the farmers had requested as they had market business to attend to in the morning. The (guided) conversation began around 2.30pm and was wide ranging covering such things as the benefits of eating small (not young – an important distinction) fish; species to include in the grow-out phase and the location of the earth ponds. Roles within the household and on the property were discussed with good
humour!! With their daughter and a neighbour popping in and out, the couple drew maps/plans of their vision for their property in 1, 3 and 5 years. This result of this exercise – which I rather cynically doubted would come to much – was a quite complex chart of things they wished to develop and where on the site they would do so.
We then rode back to Siem Reap mostly in the dark and met the following morning for coffee and to reflect on what had happened the previous day.