A Lao Farmer's Best Practices in Green Water Management

Monaratana Mao

GWM  Best Practice of one smallholder farmer household: Mr. Sen Thol and Mrs. Suong Srim in Kbal Or village, Tuol Sophy commune,  Or Raing Ov district, Tbaung Khmum province, Cambodia

ADB RETA 8163-CASP2 (Core Agriculture Support Program, Phase II) provides funds to support the Working Group on Agriculture of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (WGA/MAFF) under a Letter of Agreement (LOA) between WGA/MAFF and ADB for support to the implementation of pilot projects in Cambodia. The Green Water Management (GWM) is a project under the LOA. The GWM is aimed at increasing adaptive capacity of the small holder farmers to be able to utilize the rain water harvesting in order to promote organic vegetable and crop productivity and production, improve food safety, and livelihood enhancement of farmers.

This project works directly with 500 farmers of which 40% are women in the 15 selected villages of four target provinces: Battambang, Kampong Cham, Svay Rieng and Tbaung Khmum provinces. A total of 25 farmers have been selected for the GWM farm demonstration which are conducted in the four target provinces. The project also works with government institutes to conduct dialogue on existing policies that could promote the implementation of green water management and development of a green water management policy in the future.

Below is a best practice case of one smallholder farmer household among the targets in Tbaung Khmum province. Mr. Sen Thol (husband, family head, 65) and Mrs. Suong Srim (wife) with 5 children living together in the households, in Kbal O’ village, Tuol Sophy commune, O’ Raing Ov district, Tbaung Khmum province. This couple is a demonstration farmer in Tbaung Khmum province and they can demonstrate the practice of the green water management in their field and they are also a member of the Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) group. 

This household has 3,000m² for vegetable growing. They have one pond size: 15m x15m x 4m. The pond is full of water collected from rainfall during the wet season. Mr. Seng Thol  continuously maintains his pond and the water from the natural evaporation by the tree plantation around the pond and vegetable plants, as the vine plant leans on the rack over the pond for shading and to reduce evaporation. 

Currently, Mr. Sen Thol grows cucumber 400 m² within their vegetable growing area. He grows cucumber using mature compost from his compost house (basal fertilizer 2kg/m²; within 10days growing, fertilizing 2Kg/ m²). The compost made from slurry, leaves, and biochar.  He uses drip irrigation by pumping water from his pond and uses cloth for mulching on the cucumber rows, reducing water evaporation. During the growing period of 2 months, Mr. Sen Thol recorded the amount of water used for the cucumber was 28 mᵌ, from his pond. It may be noted that this year, it was raining almost every day, during the planting period. Actually, the water used for irrigating the cucumber was less than what the plants needed due to more frequent rainfall during the vegetable growth period. 

However, Mr. Sen Thol noticed that the GWM technology helped him to reduce amount of water usage, about 50% for the same crop and land size, compared with his previous practice (without GWM technology) during a similar rainfall pattern. Mr. Sen Thol expressed that even if he uses less water and only organic fertilizer, he can obtain a similar amount of cucumber yield, 680 kg cucumber from 400 m²(in more rain during the wet season). 

As Mr. Sen Thol is also a member of the PGS group, the harvest of his cucumbers was gathered with other PGS members and taken to the PGS vegetable gathering place for washing, grading, packaging and labeling. The packed cucumbers were sold to the local markets and the Natural Agriculture Village shop in Phnom Penh where organic vegetables have a 15% premium price markup. This PGS group established an organic stall at the local market and also signed a contract with an organic shop in Phnom Penh called the “Natural Agriculture Village shop”. 

Mr. Sen Thol and the family are very happy as they spent less inputs (in monetary value), gained more yield and sold at a better price so that they can gain more profits from their vegetables.  Moreover, they can have water available for the whole year for his agriculture production, especially, during the dry season so that he can sell his vegetable products for a higher price.

This case study shows several dimensions that enable smallholder farmers to improve their income generation whole-year-round. Water management is the main factor for the smallholder farmers to increase the number of crops per year, in particular they can produce vegetable during the peak price period for better income. Changing agronomic practice from conventional chemical agriculture production to the organic production that enables the smallholder farmers to spend less on agriculture inputs but they can earn more income. In addition, the combination of PGS practice is very important, which ties up these farmers into groups to produce certified organic agriculture products for markets. Another important dimension of PGS practice is that PGS enables farmers to access various types of markets. Currently, there are more and more customers who  start to become aware and trust the organic agriculture products as the certified safe food. 
Based on the experience and practices by farmers under the support of the ADB TA8163, it could be concluded that water management techniques are very importance for agriculture production as well as for our life. We should not waste water and store rain water for this purpose. We should also protect clean water, inside the natural reservoir as well as the underground water from being dirty due to the soil or water pollution. In this connection, WGA/MAFF suggested to have proper management of water usage, collect best practices and lessons learned and introduce these importance elements into a Policy Brief on the Green Water Management as described above.



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