Ry Lai Raises His Income with New Agriculture

Written by
Eryn Austin-Bergen
Published on
June 23, 2022 at 4:44:00 PM PDT June 23, 2022 at 4:44:00 PM PDTrd, June 23, 2022 at 4:44:00 PM PDT

When selling home-grown vegetables is your bread and butter, it’s no small thing to run out of the fertilizer that makes them grow big and juicy. Or for a pest to devour your spinach and cabbage crops. Or to have hang-ups getting freshly cut produce to market on time.


These (and a hundred more!) are the worries that keep small scale farmers like Ry Lai awake at night.

“Because my family depends on vegetable farming only, once our vegetables are destroyed by pests, it negatively impacts my family’s source of income,” — Ry Lai explains.

Their main source of income, agriculture, was not very profitable and couldn’t really support the family.

Ry Lai and his wife Roung Ran live with their three children in the rural community of Bet Phkar in Svay Leu, Cambodia. In the past, they generally kept to themselves, Ry Lai preferring not to get involved in organized community activities or social events. This feeling isn’t uncommon in Cambodia where decades of past oppressive regimes created a lingering fear of being spied on and falsely accused and punished.

In Ry Lai’s words, his family had “no specific goals” for the future. They were drifting along, barely getting by. He attributes their situation, in part, to his own state of mind.

“I had no confidence or belief in myself, since I had no specific experience or skills in agriculture to share with other community members.”

When Food for the Hungry (FH) Cambodia started offering community workshops on agriculture, however, things began to change. “Since I have been involved with FH, I have updated my agriculture methods and farming practices,” Ry Lai explains.

“Nowadays I can make compost from the rotten vegetables and use other household potential resources to grow my vegetables. Also, I can make natural pesticides and understand the way to prepare vegetable farming during the rainy season and dry season. More importantly, I can grow vegetables by using compost fertilizer and natural pesticides with high-yield vegetables.”

By selling their home-grown veggies to neighbours, Ry Lai and Roung Ran not only increase their family income, they also raise the level of food security and nutrition in their community!

What a transformation this new know-how has initiated! Ry Lai now earns a high income from their vegetable produce—40,000 to 60,000 Riels ($10 - $15 USD) per day. In a country where the household income per capita is less than $5 USD a day, Ry Lai isn’t doing too bad! He’s added cassava and rice farming to generate additional income. And, like the good father he is, he uses the money he earns to support his family.

While participating in some of the agricultural workshops, Ry Lai was offered the role of a Lead Farmer, an agriculture volunteer who teaches other community members new farming techniques. Why? “Because they [FH] found out that I am being active and diligent with vegetable farming including soil preparation and seed management, compost making, natural pesticide, and vegetable farming.”

After actively engaging with FH activities, Ry Lai began to change. No longer keeping to himself, he now encourages neighbours to drop by and ask him about farming!

“I am proud of myself because I am able to share agricultural knowledge that I have gotten from the FH program to my community members. They turn to pay attention to what I am sharing and always come to seek more advice.” — Ry Lai

As the wider community follows the lead of men and women like Ry Lai and Roung Ran, more families are growing in health and income. The community used to struggle with poor living conditions, inadequate sanitation, a lack of knowledge around how to use hygiene to keep disease away, and basic agricultural methods.

Today, Ry Lai observes, “Our community members have changed themselves to live in good conditions through planting vegetables, raising chicken and fish, and growing cassava, cashews, and rice. Moreover, there are many people in the community who have their own water filter tank and have access to toilets at home and good transportation in the communities, while our youth and children’s hygiene and health are much improved.”

If you’d like to help more fathers like Ry Lai grow a sustainable source of income to support their families, go to Feeding Families!

Feeding Families