Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in Asia. Nearly 80 percent of its population lives in rural areas and works in the agricultural sector, as few other job opportunities exist. Decades of conflict, beginning in the 1970s and continuing until nearly 25 years later, have left Cambodia’s agricultural sector lagging behind those of neighboring Vietnam and Thailand. Widespread poverty has led to destructive and illegal logging in Cambodia’s rainforests.
Other major income-generating options – factory work, migrating to regions with more jobs and illegal logging of local rainforests – do not offer sustainable ways for farmers to pull themselves out of poverty. Factory jobs are few, competition for the jobs in other regions is fierce, and logging will only last as long as rain forests still exist near the villages. In addition, the lack of alternatives forces an alarmingly high number of women into the sex trade at an early age.
Yet, tremendous opportunity exists for Cambodian farmers to improve their lot. Cambodia currently imports over 95% of its vegetables from abroad; as a result, vegetable prices are high. With the right tools, Cambodian farmers can grow their own crops and vegetables, sell them at good prices and reduce Cambodia’s reliance on imported agricultural products, while helping to minimize environmental destruction.