Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Cambodia #5

The month long flooding destroyed thousands of crops of rice. Most affected are small families who rent fields to plant rice on. The quantity of rice lost varies with size of field but my friend Nakry lost 150 kg (minimum expected yield). His family rent a field 10km away from his home.. The roads are too bad for cycling and can't be navigated by motorized vehicle either (now even worse after the flooding).

Nakry used to walk to this field and work on it on his day off work (typically one day every 10-12 days). His family use around 100-120kg of rice a month! Bear in mind that rice is their main food source. 10 kilogram of rice cost about $7-8 - this is the cheapest rice. A safe assumption would be that a kilo of rice may soon shoot to $1 per kilo (hopefully not more!) as so much of Asia was affected by the flooding that food shortages are to be expected. A huge quantity of rice was lost this year in Cambodia, Thailand, and to my knowledge also Laos, Vietnam and I don't know but assume as it is the same region also Burma (Myanmar)

Back to Nakry and his family. He is extremely hard working, currently giving regular French and English Language lessons to extended family and some others. Extended family in Cambodia really means VERY extended to the point that in Europe we may barely know of people's existence.. His salary supports a whole bunch of children in his immediate and extended family to eat and receive adequate schooling, I have no idea how his salary of $130 per month support so many adults and children. 5 adult family members were at home when we went for lunch on Nakry's day off work yesterday. I understand that there is not much work but that what work is available people jump at.

Nakry's 16 year old niece left school at 15 because the family couldn't afford to pay for her to attend schooling any longer. She now is effectively a day labourer when all that would be needed for her to remain in school would be $1 a day! That's how little money would be enough to help keep a girl in education which ultimately would mean she would be stronger in society, a better income earner and certainly more protected against poverty. It seems mad to stop education before it is complete when a girl is so close to complete the basic education!

Here many whom I have spoken with know that education is what is needed and still sooo many residents of rural areas have not got the means to access the minimum education that would help so much to empower their communities.

where are they now?
Still in an envelop in English currency. I am waiting to see how best to spend the little money we collected. It's really very little. I am toying with the idea of giving 50% each to Nakry and his family as well as a local NGO worker to support her in remaining high spirited and supporting larger projects involving whole communities. Her engagement means that a village of 100-150 people will soon have a school /health centre building, the villagers are educated about recycling and waste-reduction and re-use while benefitting from a flood relief scheme where they are the recipients of a reward scheme which exchanges rice, cooking oil, blankets (it gets surprisingly cool at night, very hard to sleep for old and weaker people) and mosquito nets as well as school bags and exercise books for successful participation in the recycling project arranged by HUSK and coordinated by Noungh.

Nakry: he already passes on his English and French speaking abilities. I would like to speak to him about a possible 'target' in exchange for the money we raised; e.g. a number of students and/or a level aimed for within a period of time. I am wondering if it would help to offer the students monetary incentive (i.e. 50cent to $1 for each lesson done well and attended on time, his niece for example often comes late or misses her class because she is working on a field for someone else who hired her for the day, I wonder if there is a way to get her to learn / give her access to learning, without loosing income..).

Nakry has a second little niece who is 10 years old but looks 6. Being so small is a probable sign of malnutrition early in life. I would like to find a way to support both girls to get as much education as possible.. In the meantime giving Nakry 50% of our raised money will help support the whole family and help with the lost rice crop.

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