Jackie Perkins, New south Wales Regional Meeting.
CAMBODIAN VISITORS TO AUSTRALIA
For many Friends, the recent visit to Australia by three of QSA’s project partners from Cambodia has enabled them to hear about the benefits of QSA’s development support and to learn what form this support has taken. Sithol, the Director of the Department of Women’s Affairs was so very happy to meet members of the Quaker community, especially members of the QSA Management Committee, and to renew contacts with most of the Cambodia Study Tour participants. Although her spoken English was a bit limited, she gained confidence as her stay progressed, and was then able to express herself well.
The main spokesperson was Hawai, one of three male staff members working for the Department of Women. His spoken and written English has made him the obvious translator for the office. He has a great interest in agriculture, and with his computer skills, he has been able to put together Power Point presentations to share ideas both here in Australia on this tour, and as part of training workshops in Cambodia. Samak was the third member of the team, and she is one of the department’s deputy directors, with a responsibility for the economic development of the communities they work with, as well as the office, the demonstration garden and shop located in the grounds of the office.
For Samak and Hawai, this was their first visit to any country outside their own country. Sithol made a visit to Russia in the 1970s, and other than that, has not ventured outside of Cambodia, so for them this visit contained many firsts: first visit on a tram, a train, a plane, escalators and lifts. And the first time they had felt so cold!
L-R Anne-Maree Johnston, Grant Perkins, Suellen O’Brien, Laurie Strathdee, Simak, Sithol, Hawai, Dennis Stanton, Wies Schuiringa and Garry Duncan.
Their work in Cambodia is teaching communities to grow fruit and vegetables for greater food security, and the possibility of selling surplus produce in the markets to generate an income for the family. They promote organic approaches, and teach permaculture methods, so it was of great interest to them to meet up with teachers of permaculture here in Australia.
Also on their itinerary were visits to growers markets to see different types of vegetables and fruits grown here and how they are being promoted, visiting some schools where permaculture is being taught in the outdoor school food gardens, and exploring community gardens in Sydney suburbs.
There was also time to plant some trees in Adelaide, and to see the Quaker Shop, through which valuable funds have been raised to support QSA’s projects. They also managed to meet up with Rowe Morrow, who first taught Sithol some permaculture basics about fifteen years ago.
Photo of Hawai, Samak and Sithol exploring a community garden in Newtown, NSW.
When asked if there were any new ideas they wanted to try when they get back to Cambodia, they were all very clear. They want to make their own worm farms. They could see the value in growing fruit and vegetables together for maximum use of the ground, would explore bee-keeping so to see if there is someone locally who could help them, and put some tables and chairs outside of the buildings under the shade of fruit trees for staff to relax at the end of the day.
Thanks go to Friends in Adelaide, Canberra, Wollongong, Katoomba and Sydney for hosting and supporting this visit. And for those Friends who did meet them during their visit, hopefully you have a great understanding and respect for the great work they are doing to bring about positive changes in rural Cambodia.
You may think this edition of QSA Notes is an exaggeration of what can be achieved with permaculture. Perhaps the following story will help. A Cambodian farmer called Roeun lives with his wife Mom and their seven children – four boys and three girls. Before receiving permaculture training, they were very poor and only had one rice field and faced hunger for part of every year. So two boys stop going to school at level 6 in primary school.
To help their parent they worked as labourers, ploughing land or growing rice for other people .In 2006, they attended Permaculture training, and this was an opportunity for them to learn new skills, particularly about how to grow fruit tree and set up a small business with help from a micro credit loan. Initially a small loan enabled the family to buy some rice seedlings, and with the profits from the sale of the rice the loan was repaid on time. A slightly bigger loan enabled more seedlings to be bought, and the third loan enabled Mom to buy a water pump to water plants in the dry season. They practised grafting and growing orange trees, and now they have 2,500 trees on a larger area of land which they have bought.
From 2011 they have grown their oranges organically and their income has increased, enabling Mom and Roeun to build a bigger house, buy some equipment for use on their farm, have ten staff working with them on the farm, and a son and a daughter at University.
STUDY TOUR TO UGANDA
Hopefully most of you will have read the information about the study tour to Uganda in November. If you have and are still making up your mind, please let the QSA office know so that plans can be finalised. If you would like some material sent to you about the tour, please contact Kate Bandler in the QSA office on firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone on 029698 9103 as soon as possible.