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San Da’s Journey to Improved Vegetable Farming

Posted On: July 12, 2024
Farmer San Da surrounded by plants.
San Da at his hot pepper farm.

When whiteflies attacked San Da’s crops, he didn’t know what to do. Looking for help, he contacted the Nurture Veg project that EWS-KT had just begun in his community.

BATTAMBANG PROVINCE, CAMBODIA – San Da, a 56-year-old farmer, resides in Boeng Ampil Village in Battambang province. Battambang is located in a highly fertile region that extends east to Tonle Sap Lake, and its shared western border with Thailand provides efficient access to a large export market for the province’s agricultural products.

The main source of income for San Da is growing vegetables. He owns 7,500 square meters of land and rents an additional 4,500 square meters, where he cultivates cucumbers and hot peppers. A hardworking man, he also grows rice and raises farm animals. 

He has nine children—four daughters and five sons—and some of them are still attending school. In farming, his overarching goals are to reduce his expenses, earn a decent income for his family, and provide support for the education of his children.

In August 2023, San Da encountered a problem with whiteflies infesting a number of his crops. This was a new challenge for him, and he wasn’t sure what to do. The head of his community had recently made an announcement about a new training program in vegetable production called Nurture Veg, and he decided to seek their assistance.  

Nurture Veg–Nurturing Sustainable Practices for Smallholder Vegetable Farmers, which began in August 2023, is supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), HEKS/EPER, and Caritas Switzerland. Co-funding and implementation of the Nurture Veg project are provided by East-West Seed Knowledge Transfer (EWS-KT). 

The project works in less developed areas of Battambang and Banteay Meanchey provinces where farmers are vulnerable to climate change, struggle with low and poor-quality yields, and have fewer income-generating opportunities. Under Nurture Veg, EWS-KT trains farmers in effective vegetable farming techniques suitable for local agronomic and climatic conditions, with a focus on agroecological and climate-resilient approaches.  

Farmer San Da and EWS-KT staff
San Da (left) watches as EWS-KT Technical Field Officer Yoeurm Phalla (right) checks the soil in San Da’s field.

After talking with EWS-KT field staff implementing Nurture Veg, San Da joined the project as a key farmer. In addition to needing help with his whitefly infestation, he was interested in learning better technical skills for vegetable growing and in obtaining materials for practical experimentation with vegetable production. 

“I have increased my knowledge and income from my crops since I learned the technical aspects of vegetable growing through the Nurture Veg project,” said San Da.

Through the project, he gained first-hand experience in areas such as seedling nurseries and integrated pest management, which includes responsible use of chemical pesticides as well as pest prevention techniques and natural treatments.

“The Knowledge Transfer team advised me to grow the seed based on the season, and it is convenient to buy near my village,” he said. “I learned crop rotation, land preparation, green manuring, seeding production, and using biopesticides for my crops.”

In addition to providing on-field training sessions and individualized coaching, the EWS-KT team introduced San Da to GrowHow, a farmer-focused website by EWS-KT where he could learn more about growing vegetables and acquire further technical knowledge. They also invited him to join the Vegetable Knowledge Transfer Facebook group, a vibrant online community moderated by EWS-KT where farmers in Cambodia share information and provide advice to each other—and where guidance from EWS-KT staff is only a post or message away. 

To ensure continued knowledge transfer in the community, key farmers with the Nurture Veg project are being prepared to support neighboring farmers in their second year, and San Da is already practicing his peer training skills. After gaining experience with green manuring and biopesticides, San Da shared his newfound knowledge with three farmers who were interested in learning these sustainable, climate-resilient techniques.