An ARI study tour would not be complete without visiting the rural areas and we did so by visiting our 2009 graduate Ven Ban in his village Trapen Tasom in Takeo province. Ban runs an organic farm with his family but it was originally started by his father after he had come back from a Thai refugee camp after the civil war. They welcomed us with fresh coconuts to drink from and delicious vegetable form the fields. The farm is a beautiful place with Ban concentrating on chicken raising. We observed his fields and learned about the huge differences between rainy and dry season farming.
Not everything was peaceful, though. There are still landmines in this region, with the latest ones discovered and removed from the farm just days before our visit. Another one was still somewhere hidden meters away under a pile of rubbish. Ven Ban’s father then told us about his escape from Takeo to the Thai border during the Vietnamese invasion that brought an end to the Khmer Rouge reign of terror.
This was my first time to visit the countryside of a South East Asian country and it was a big learning opportunity. To feel the hot sun and get the dust in your eyes gave me such an immediate impression of the realities of the grassroots farming Ven Ban and the people of his community are practicing each day. It is extremely difficult for him to promote organic farming, but through the support of many people he will manage to create a training center soon.