It’s a busy time of year in Cambodia, with entire families stepping out onto their rice fields to plant rice. Here we chat to two of our older students, nominated by their friends as “the best planters” to tell us about this uniquely Cambodian tradition.
Thea, 15 and Nat, 14 are our “rice experts”. Hi guys! When do you plant rice? Nat: We plant rice in rainy season! There is no set month, only once the rain starts.
What do you do? Thea: First, you have to plough the ground – we use a cow, it is easy to control the cow. Some people use a buffalo and a wooden tractor with a sharp stone. Then we collect compost like cow poo to put in the soil. Then you throw the seed across the ploughed field. It is really important now that you guard the field from chickens or birds who will eat the seeds. After that it will grow by itself.
How long does this take? Thea: We can harvest it after the Water Festival, so around 3 months. It depends on the rice. We plant the rice that we select from the previous years harvest which has been the best.
Who helps to plant? Nat: The whole family helps each other on their fields. If a family helps us, we help them, as we say in Cambodia we “borrow their hands”.
How much rice do you grow? Nat: It depends on the year. If the sky gives more water (rainfall) it is good for us and we get a better harvest. Here we don’t have irrigation. Some years we have rice to sell, some years we don’t have enough to eat. It all depends on the sky.
What’s the best bit about this time of year? Nat: I like planting more than harvesting, because planting is easy! Harvesting needs more people, it takes more time.
What do you not like about it? Thea: The planting season is okay but pulling up the plants is hard, sometimes I get blisters. And cutting the rice can be dangerous as we use a scythe and it can cut us! (Lisa: Helping Hands treats this injury with first aid on-site a lot at this time of year).
And how about the taste of the rice once you’ve harvested it? Thea and Nat: “Chnnang”! Delicious!
Thanks guys! This season can be challenging at school with many families needing their children to help them in the rice fields. Well done to our teachers for keeping classes running and to the students for being flexible, helping their families whilst continuing their education.