October 31 used to mean more than candy and costumes. Many cultures celebrated summer’s end — marking the close of the harvest season as the world transitioned into the darker, colder half of the year.
Today in the United States, most of our food is available year-round, with the exception of certain seasonal produce. But in many nations, farmers still rely on the seasons and a good harvest for their family’s survival and income for the entire year. World Vision works with farmers such as Morm Sem in Cambodia to help them increase their productivity.
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In southwestern Cambodia, the mountainous land has fertile soil for growing crops such as cassava, pepper, pumpkins, and especially yellow corn, and growers like Morm Sem smile when their crops receive a good market price.
August is in the rainy season, and it is harvest time for all farmers who grow yellow corn. The area’s main road is made with red soil, and it is muddy and eroded by rain. But people are used to the road’s conditions and go about their trading as usual. Along the road are big piles of corn, and workers load corn sacks into trucks.
Sem, 52, is laying out a big pile of corn that he is ready to sell. He is working hard to monitor the process of loading the produce into the truck. At first glance, his gait appears normal, but Sem is disabled with an artificial leg.
When Sem was walking through the forest, he lost his right leg to an unexploded ordnance (UXO), which remained from the civil war (1967-1975). The area was once covered with UXOs.
“Some people could not access the land to grow crops because they were afraid of UXOs, but some people took the risk to use the land for growing crops. I was one who dared to do it,” Sem recalls.
Sem’s disability has not prevented him from working. Year by year, Sem was able to buy a small plot of land and now uses it for growing crops. Life was not easy for him as a disabled man working to feed his wife, Chea Soy, now 50, and two children, Morm Nangg, 21 and a former sponsored child, and Morm Vat, 24 and married.
“My income was not good. We lived in a small house.”
Sem grows yellow corn and used to earn only about 10,000 reils (US$2.50) to 20,000 reils (US$5) per day.
“We did not know how to select good seeds to grow or how to manage income,” Sem says. “The price of corn varies even in the same village. The price depends on middlemen.”
Faced with these challenges, Sem and his wife agreed to join the Agriculture Cooperative (AC) in 2006 because they wanted to earn a better income and improve their knowledge of agriculture, rather than just practicing traditional methods.
“At first, I did not know anything. After several meetings and trainings, such as growing crops, using fertilizers, and choosing good seeds with the support of World Vision, I am able to improve my yields every year,” Sem says.
World Vision also provided some fertilizers and seeds for the group. Cooperative committees also discussed how to find the best market price to help all members. They cooperated with companies so that middlemen would have less of a chance to change the price.
“I am very happy now,” Sem says. “I learned a lot and I also assist in finding more ways to improve the group. I learned to manage my cash well, so I can control gross and net income properly.”
Since members of the AC don’t borrow money from a local moneylender with a high interest rate, their finances are better. “I could earn a net income from 3 to 4 million reils (US$750 to US$1,000) a year,” Sem says with a smile.
Several years after joining the AC group, Sem has used his savings to build a new house.
“Thanks to my wife who helps me in the field, and thanks to World Vision staff who always support our community to have better living condition. All the improvements have made an impact on children’s lives for sure. They can go to school and get away from poverty.”
To support their families, many farmers like Sem work hard to get the best possible harvests. Your one-time gift of Tools, Training, and Seeds provides families with things like hoes, harvesting equipment, fertilizer, and irrigation kits, plus training in improved farming methods. You will also provide fast-growing, drought-resistant vegetable and grain seeds. Help families get back on their feet so they can grow food for years to come.