Today is our next to last day here in Cambodia. I have been blessed to meet incredible leaders, see a mission field of people who are hungry for truth and hope and been stirred in my call to lead a movement of crazy people who think they may just be able to change the world. We were blessed to be able to tour an artisan wood carving factory as well as experience how silk is made from worms (it’s a pretty crazy process) but I don’t care to spend any time talking about those today. I only wish to tell you about PCL’s Integrated Farm that I was able to experience this afternoon.
The farm sits just behind a small rural village about 45 minutes outside of Siem Reap in a place called Takam. About 150 families live in this extremely impoverished village where the average wage is only about 30 per person/family (.60 to $1 per day). 90% of Cambodia is just like this village.
The Integrated Farm is a research facility to see what can grow and technologies that can make it easier as well as a training center to teach people how to do this on their farms. They don't just tell them, they show them through relationships. Its only 4 years old and they’ve only been growing for 3 years so that means much of the first 3 years has been about trial and error, learning and building relationships in order to pass on their findings. Below are just a few of the amazing things they are doing in order to help 90% of Cambodians learn to grow better, faster, more frequent crops and have a healthier, more sustainable life. Let me just tell you how connected each of the elements are in the midst of telling you how they are helping people.The two fish ponds have a small deck that houses pigs over the top of one portion of the pond that creates food for the fish as well as contributing to the compost station that will be moved to the rice fields to produce better and bigger rice crops. In 4-5 months a fish (Catfish and Kmher tilapia) will grow to 1 kilo and be able to return 3 bucks in the market. Not only will the dung be used for compost but before it goes to compost it goes to a biodigester which will harvest the methane and be used to cook with in the kitchen. This is a huge improvement for this community that until 3 months ago had never, ever, had electricity in it. They have used solar panels and a super battery (composed of about 40 regular car batteries) to turn the lights on for the very first time ever in this village. That’s pretty incredible.
They have been able to produce better rice than anyone else in the village and the people of the village now believe what they have been hearing about. They are teaching irrigation and field techniques and can now get two to three crops a year as opposed to one. It's hard to make money on one crop a year but with two to three crops per year they have a chance to send their kids to school, etc..
They give out thousands a year. $12 a piece takes care of one family for a year. Drastically improves infant immortality rates. Many children die before age 5 because of unfiltered water. $12 can change one families life!
They are helping many widows in the community help make a living and send their children to school. One woman named Um Lai is a great example of how they are helping. Her daughter was raped by a man a couple years ago and no one would help her. She has tried to kill herself many times. They saw her climbing into a tree trying to hang herself several times. They found her and they began to train her. She now works on this project, goes to church and has hope. They start with sawdust, mix with rice leftovers grinded and with lime. They break it down and bag it. They put it in the fire steamer. They take it out and let it sit for a month and the mushrooms start coming out. They sell really well here. Over a six month cycle 1 bag produces 1 kilo = $1-1.50 per bag. Each women has made 2-300 in the last six months. From what they make they save $11 for bags and supplies stuff for the next six months. Each women has been able to trade the mushrooms, eat better and sustain themselves better. They have easily doubled what they had coming in before.
Of course when PCL came to Cambodia 10 years ago they had dreams of helping plant churches but that journey is extremely long. A few months ago they began meeting as a church in this community, 60-70 people regularly attend. They are pastored by a man named Pastor Ike. They have plans to build a church, kitchen, fence around property. After the need was presented for the church several pastors on this trip stepped up and agreed to take care of all expenses to build the church.
Finally, one incredible story is of a man named Sen, (Sine). Sen grew up here, went to an orphanage, but had a dream to come to this village and start a church and farm. He now lives in Siem Reap at the PCL children's home as a house parent and works full time serving in this community as a PCL staff member.
Wow. That’s when you know it is working. Some investments take a long time for a return and they are more than worth it.