On the 12th of September, we went on a field trip to interview the farmers at Saang district in Kandal province. It’s a village that is the main transport of vegetables to the capital city, Phnom Penh. Although it’s the main vegetable transporter, they grow the vegetables chemically. The goals of the trip were to learn the reasons behind why they are growing the vegetables chemically and to really understand the process of growing using chemicals.
After interviewing about 25 farmers for the whole morning, we found out that there were several aspects behind the reasons of them growing chemical vegetables. The first factor that we identified was high market demands. Despite the fact that the whole village grow a variety of vegetables, the market demands were too high. The farmers mentioned that people love to buy fresh and healthy-looking vegetables, while organic vegetables don’t look fresh all the time and using chemicals could help the vegetables to grow faster and look fresh, which could satisfy the market’s demands on time.
The second reason we found was that the village doesn’t have enough resources to make organic materials needed to grow vegetables such as; cow dung, woody herbs, rice husks, burnt rice husks, different types of land, etc… They said that people used to own many cows, so it was easier to find cow dung, however as time passes, people are modernizing to adapt, evolve and keep up with the technological world. Farmers needed to buy cow dung from others, which costs a lot and it was hard to find the woody herbs in the village as well. Therefore, they have no other choice, but to choose chemical over organic.
The third and last cause is related to convenience and time to maintain the vegetables. To grow organic vegetables, the farmers needed to spend more effort and time on maintaining the vegetables, making sure that there are no bugs eating the vegetables, etc… On the other hand, if the farmers use chemical pesticides or other chemical materials, they put less effort, but the vegetables can still grow fast and ready to harvest on time to satisfy the needs of the markets. In addition, some of the farmers weren’t just only farmers, they also have other occupations to support their family, so they weren’t given enough time for taking care of the vegetables.
Some of my observations from the trip were that there were some farmers who have never tried growing organically, just because no one in the village grows organic vegetables. They don’t want to put the whole vegetable field at risk of not getting high quality vegetables on time. Furthermore, I’ve noticed that the farmers have a lot of experience growing vegetables, but they don’t have a lot of education about why are there more bugs as they use more chemicals. Some of them think that the soil was getting worse, not because of the chemicals, but because of the vegetables that are grown on the field. To maintain the soil, they use crop rotation method. In fact, crop rotation is a great way to maintain the nutrients in soil.
In conclusion, the trip was very successful, as we were able to meet our expectations and get a lot of incredible responses from the farmers, since they were very open. I learnt a lot about the way they use chemical and the changes of the vegetables that are sprayed by chemicals. I can now see a different perspective from the farmers that grow chemical vegetables. I believe that people need to be educated on the effects of chemicals, to stop using chemicals and start growing organic vegetables.