We arrive in Battambang - the home to the famous Battambang orange; they say that the only place in South East Asia that the farmer is a desirable job is in Battambang. The rich soil means fruitful farms. Everywhere else, the farmer is looked down upon, poor, uneducated, uninspired. Sadly you see a lot of elderly people walking around the cities of Phnom Penh and Siem reap literally doubled over.... these people have been rice farmers, bent over for 10-hours per day, 365-days per year planting and harvesting rice.
We stop to visit the silk farms, another NGO supporting and educating local people on the trade of sick farming. The first thing you notice is the number of women employed, the number of people with a disability gainfully employed and the good working conditions (i.e. good ventilation, adequate space, meal breaks, safety precautions and PPE). Santuk Silk Farm demonstrates the process of silk production from Mulberry leaf to silk worm cocoon through to weaving the beautiful silk product. The social enterprise employs 18 weavers and 1 silk worm raiser in an area with limited employment opportunities paying an above average wage to its employees.
On entering the farm shop, you instantly think their products are expensive, possibly overpriced, but following the tour and now looking at the same items with an educated eye, these same items look to be reasonable and of good value.What I am struck by is how removed we are from the supply chain. In todays world we want EVERYTHING fast and cheap with little thought as to how such was achieved.... if we are getting something at rock bottom prices, then someone along the supply chain has not been paid correctly or is functioning within suitable and healthy conditions... somewhere along the line someone has paid the price.
We visit a clay pot workhouse, this is run entirely by the family and in the family home. The Mother tells of her hardships, her husband falling to his death out the front of their home as he once collected coconuts form the palm trees. She was heavily pregnant and left to find divisive ways to support her family. Today they are self sufficient, making 40 pots per day, all by hand and with the most basic of tools.
We visit the training ground of the PHARE Circus, an NGO educating children who would others not be able to access school and teaching them a range of traditional arts... reconnecting them with their history. We attempt the acrobatics... we really gave it a read-hot-go but we struggled to demonstrate any talent whatsoever. We were much better observers at the show that proceeded! https://pharecambodiancircus.rezgo.com
We visit the bat caves... coconut in hand and embracing the moment. Learning of the important ecological role these bats play on the environment in Cambodia.