Cambodia’s tourism industry, which usually contributes around one-third of GDP (OECD 2019), has been decimated due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. So far around 2,956 tourism-related businesses in Cambodia have closed, leaving a further 45,405 people unemployed (Minister of Tourism). Although the government has issued some USD$40 payments to affected workers in the tourism industry, this amount puts recipients under the international poverty line of USD$1.90 a day (World Bank). Added to this, 90,000 Cambodian migrant workers fled back to the country from Thailand because of COVID-19, leaving them jobless (UNAids). The collapse of growth drivers has put at least 1.76 million jobs at risk (World Bank). Siem Reap, our target area, is dependent on tourism as it is the location of the Angkor World Heritage Site.
Schools and training institutions have been closed until November, leaving many without education as they don’t have access to the internet or televisions to participate in their school’s online learning. Children who were already living in poverty or have slipped into poverty as a result of their caregivers losing their jobs are at severe risk of not returning to school in the new year, as they will need to turn to subsistence farming and engage in child labour in order to survive.
Prior to COVID-19, 35% of Cambodians were already living in multidimensional poverty, meaning they are deprived of at least one of the three key dimensions: health, education and living standards (UNDP 2018). Poverty levels could climb by 11 percentage points if income losses last for six months (World Bank). Economists say it’s likely that Cambodia will experience a “U-shaped” recovery, wherein growth rates won’t return to pre-crisis levels for several years (Asia Times), therefore it is expected that many more Cambodians will slip into the poverty bracket. An estimated loss of just 30 cents US per day in income per person would double the country’s poverty rate (UN World Food Program). Added to this, an estimated 2.6 million Cambodians have outstanding microfinance loans worth more than $10 billion collectively, and many are unable to repay their loans due to unemployment (Cambodia Microfinance Association). This puts Cambodians that are unable to repay their loans at risk of losing their homes or falling into debt bondage and human trafficking (UNHCR).
Our program partner, Human and Hope Association Cambodia (HHA) has conducted a survey of families in need. 88% of those families have had at least one family member who lost their job as a result of the downturn of the tourism industry. 67% of the families are in debt, with regular repayments required. 27% of the families have to pay regular medical bills.
Working with the Chief of Sambour Commune, HHA has identified that food security is the primary need of families who have been hit by the impact of COVID-19. Since early May, the team has distributed 220 emergency food packages to the 257 families that were identified as food insecure by the commune authorities. These packs included 25kg of rice, 20 eggs, 10 tins of fish and 10 packets of noodles.
As emergency food packages are a short-term solution, the team surveyed the families on what support they needed to produce their own food. 68% of families stated that they would like support through training and resources so they could grow their own vegetables using the limited land they have.
The first round of the Home Garden Project will support 50 families most in need in Sambour Commune, with the goal of establishing food production using their existing land. HHA’s Project Coordinators will conduct hands-on training and mentoring, providing the families with free seeds, fertiliser and resources to launch their own gardens. The families will be provided with recycled containers and wood to make their own vegetable beds, utilising their limited land. The training course will include the importance of using natural resources to grow vegetables as opposed to dangerous chemicals, choosing the right vegetables for their land, how to grow vegetables and how to make their own fertiliser. The families who are selected will sign a contract as a way of demonstrating their commitment to establishing their home garden. Following training and mentoring, the Project Coordinators will continue informally mentoring the families for two months, in order to provide support and ensure the success of these gardens in establishing long-term food security.
|Five packs of vegetable seeds (dependent on each family’s needs)||$24||50||$1,200|
|Fertiliser (half a truck’s worth)||$29||50||$1,450|
|Farming resources (recycled boxes/containers, wood to make vegetable beds)||$24||50||$1,200|
|Staffing – Project Coordinators ($4.84 x 250 hours x 2 staff)||$4.84||500||$2,420|
|Administration (printing, phone, petrol)||$165||1||$165|
|$6,435 ($128.70 per family)|
Sally Hetherington OAM | CEO
0424 080 186