Stories of Change

Oeun and Pich.

At the end of last year, 71% of the families that CWS partnered with through our Promoting Better Lives program were considered food secure. That is up from 39% at the beginning of the year.

Source: Annual Report 2017

From hunger to saving for a house

Touch Oeun and Kun Pich sowed and harvested vegetables twice a year. They were better off than some of their neighbors in their village in western Cambodia because they had a garden to plant, but they still often didn’t have enough to eat.

Oeun was eager to provide a better life for his family, but he didn’t have the resources or training to do it. That’s where CWS and our local partner, Rural Development Association, came into play a couple of years ago. Our Promoting Better Lives program in this part of Cambodia works largely on a referral system. When we learn about a family like Oeun’s that is particularly vulnerable, we reach out with training and supplies to help them achieve their goals.

Oeun already had the commitment to create a better life for his family. We worked with him on techniques to better irrigate his garden, and helped him expand his vegetable varieties through new seeds. He also learned how to compost and how to properly use natural fertilizer.

When our team talked visited Oeun in June of last year, he told us, “By using the information and knowledge I gained to grow a variety of vegetables using a natural fertilizer and natural pesticide, too, I reduced my production costs!”

Oeun is saving lots of money because he is no longer buying chemical pesticides and fertilizers. He has managed to double his income to 1,000,000 Cambodian Riel ($250) per harvest! His family used to struggle to get by each day. Now, Oeun has enough to support his family, and to have some savings, too.

In order to ensure that they could continue the momentum, Oeun and Pich decided to join a savings group with their neighbors. When our team saw them in February, they told us, “Seeing the market demand in the village, we decided to borrow 300,000 Riel ($75) from the group to start a small grocery shop and to sell grilled chicken when there is ceremony in the village. In less than a year, the expanded garden and new business activities are running well and netting about 30,000 Riel ($7.50) most days. In the last four months, after our expenses, we saved $300! We have just used $150 from savings to expand the shop and add more profitable items for sale such as beverages and pre-paid phone cards.”

The couple proudly added, “Now our family not only has enough to eat, but we can stockpile so we do not have to worry about a future food shortage. And we can afford for socialize with other villagers at
weddings and other ceremonies, where we make connections. We continue saving with the neighborhood savings group and we have our own separate savings, too. We dream to have a proper house to live in, and now we are planning to start! We will build a 5m x 6m (320 square feet) home later this year or early next, and we are so thankful for the changes that CWS and Rural Development Association have helped us make!”