blockchain technology for rice farmers

In 2018, Oxfam, a global organization that works to end the injustice of poverty, introduced a Blockchain technology for rice farmers in Cambodia called Blockchain for Livelihood from Organic Cambodian Rice or, more simply, BlocRice. This blockchain technology will connect rice farmers in the Cambodian village of Reaksmei, in the Preah Vihear province, with other people in the supply chain to ensure that poor farmers get a fair deal.

Rice in Cambodia

Rice is Cambodia’s major crop with roughly 80 percent of Cambodian farmers cultivating rice. Many small-scale rice farmers lack the necessary information to negotiate prices and conditions with middlemen and others in the supply chain. Oxfam is hopeful that this pilot project, which will include 50 organic rice farmers, will expand to other provinces and varieties of farming.

While rice farming accounts for 25 percent of Cambodia’s economy, the average monthly income for these farmers is only $108. It is particularly tough when farmers do not have return customers or vehicles to take the product to a market. With these small-scale farmers struggling, the application of BlocRice will hopefully enhance their bargaining powers and selling prices.

Implementing Blockchain

Bitcoin is digital money that is stored in the digital wallet app on any smart device. Blockchain, a public list, records each transaction to make it traceable. No government issues blockchain, nor are banks required to manage accounts. This makes BlocRice a cheaper payment system with a transparent recording of transactions.

This project will focus on introducing the blockchain technology to rice farmers. In doing so, it will register all participants in the rice chain with a unique identification code. These include agricultural cooperatives, export and import companies, retailers and consumers. A contract between these actors will ensure proper payment and transparency. This connection between actors allows for a better chance for farmers to alleviate themselves from poverty.

The farmer will sell their rice through the cooperative called Reaksmey Lekkompos Kaksekor who then forward the rice to AmruRice, the exporter. AmruRice will then sell and ship the rice to SanoRice, the importer in the Netherlands. SanoRice will then make rice crackers out of the rice and sell it to retailers. The BlocRice application will allow farmers to ensure they get correct payments, are paid on time and that the conditions of the contracts are kept. Consumers are also able to see this data through the same app. The app provides transparency and traceability, allowing consumers to make informed decisions regarding fair production standards and conditions. As a result, the app helps contribute to fighting global poverty.

The Need for Smartphones

While the BlocRice project has helped Cambodian farmers, there is a downside. Access to smartphones presents one obstacle in bringing blockchain technology to rice farmers. Most farmers do not own smartphones, which are needed to access the BlocRice application. However, agricultural cooperatives, such as Reaksmey Lekkompos Kaksekor, do own smartphones that can be used to assist farmers to access the application.

While this pilot project was implemented from April 2018 to March 2019, the success could allow BlocRice to be expanded to other provinces and used with other crops as well. Regardless of any minor setbacks, BlocRice could be an important step in helping rice farmers in Cambodia out of poverty.

Andrea Rodriguez
Photo: Pixabay

the lingering effects of genocide
The causes of genocide are vast but include dehumanization, national crises and government power. In countries where there are deep grievances between groups, it is probable one group will ultimately be victimized by the other. Moreover, groups may blame each other for tragedies within their country. Plus, some governments constrain their power, limiting the fair representation of its people.

Rwanda and Cambodia offer two case studies of genocide that occurred in the last 50 years. Additionally, both populations combated realities of poverty and inequity even before the atrocities. Halting any development these countries may have experienced, genocide left lingering effects in Rwanda and Cambodia. Currently, both countries face hardship. However, their peoples are busy rebuilding their environments to sustain a neutral state wherein cultural, political and economic growth can flourish.

Rwanda

Rwanda lost 800,00 people during the genocide in 1994. Since the genocide, Rwanda is trying to develop services and opportunities that were lost. The drive behind this redevelopment has come from tea and coffee exports, foreign aid and the tourism industry.

Rwanda has always depended heavily on agricultural production for family consumption and state revenues. But rural poverty and land issues created a dissatisfied climate before the genocide. This is still seen through rising land inequality and decreasing possibilities for income outside of the farm sector. And both are lingering effects of genocide and threaten economic stability. Subsequently, commodity prices have dropped rapidly, especially in 1989. Then, government revenues from coffee exports declined from $144 million in 1985 to $30 million in 1993.

New Growth

However, according to the World Bank, Rwanda is developing its private sector to ensure more economic growth and reduce the lingering effects of genocide. Since 2001, Rwanda’s economic growth was bordering an average of 8 percent. In 2010, the World Bank named the country as the top reformer for business. After two successful Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategies from 2008 to 2018, Rwanda’s per capita gross domestic product annually grew around 5 percent.

The Rwanda Development Organization has ongoing projects that empower the Rwandan people to help improve socio-economic development in their communities. One project includes the Farm to Market Alliance. FtMA provides institutional support to 24,000 farmers among 80 cooperatives. The project has sustained many small farms and created support groups. So far, 20,000 farmers have been trained by other farmers to learn the best farming practices, like post-harvesting and handling.

Cambodia

In Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge genocide period took place from 1975 to 1979. Now, the country is still grappling with the past. The Cambodian People’s Party took power at the end of the genocide, instilling conservative values. Currently, there is still a generation of political leaders making it difficult for communities to have open discussions about the Khmer Rouge genocide. As such, it is hard to create strategies for growth and healing.

Legacies of Poverty

Poverty in Cambodia remains widespread, largely due to the lingering effects of genocide and the unfair distribution of wealth. The genocide led to the death of much of Cambodia’s educated class. Additionally, the majority of surviving Cambodians were farmers, subsequently unable to sustain the services affected by the genocide.

In rural areas, poverty is still a lingering effect of genocide because of ongoing corruption and the lack of government help. Similar to Rwanda, Cambodia faces challenges in jump-starting modern agriculture and irrigation techniques. This has made it difficult for Cambodia to keep up with developed countries.

Nevertheless, the future does appear hopeful according to statistics. General poverty rates in Cambodia have decreased from 50 percent to 35 percent between the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s. As a result, many provinces have seen improvements. Development strategies and nongovernmental organizations have done a lot to assist Cambodian communities.

Voluntary Service Overseas is one such NGO that has worked to restore developmental growth in Cambodia by improving the education system, quality of teaching and people’s livelihoods. It works alongside government entities to research inclusive education policies. In 2015, VSO supported the training of 540 senior education officials. This creates a sustainable opportunity for more cohesive management of schools and contributes to future economic development.

A Shared Experience

After the genocide in both Rwanda and Cambodia, a majority of the population was comprised of young people. A large part of the healing process has been to educate younger generations about the country’s history and why knowledge is so vital in making sure genocide never happens again.

Both countries have tried tackling the skills gap that could greatly affect the future of the country’s growth in economics, politics and education. Enrolling more children in school proves to be a successful strategy in combating poverty. However, these children must also attain employment opportunities as adults, too. Creating these foundations will reduce the lingering effects of genocide and give future leaders the resources to build better lives not only for themselves but for their country as a whole.

Melina Benjamin
Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Tourism InitiativesThe United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) notes that tourism is capable of driving high economic status in developing countries. Three of the below initiatives are examples of how sustainable tourism can best support developing communities.  

3 Examples of Sustainable Tourism Initiatives

  1. Cambodia’s Phare Circus
    First unveiled in 2013, the Phare Circus has drawn a large tourist and local crowd over the years and has even organized tours and private performances across the world. The stories they showcase through their acts are an authentic look into Khmer history and culture. By telling stories through performance, the circus promotes Cambodian art both domestically and overseas. The Phare Circus is an initiative of Phare Ponleu Selpak in Battambang (PPSA), which translates to The Brightness of the Arts, a nonprofit school founded in 1994 with the mission of helping young people cope with war trauma through art. All students are able to participate for free and can even move on to work for the Phare Performing Social Enterprise (PPSE), the parent company of Phare and the Circus. Both the PPSA and the PPSE are true definitions of sustainable tourism. The circus returns 75 percent of profits to the educational program and school, who in turn work on creating employment opportunities for Cambodian artists. Like the circus, Phare’s other social businesses under PPSE, such as the Phare Productions International and the Phare Creative Studio, create a reliable income to sustain the school. 
  2. Hotel Bom Bom on Príncipe Island
    Hotel Bom Bom is a bungalow resort situated on São Tomé and Príncipe, an island nation located 155 miles off the northwestern coast of Gabon. The hotel promotes water and recycling projects launched by the Príncipe Island World Biosphere Reserve and UNESCO and invites tourists to take part in these programs. Hotel guests, for example, can participate by exchanging 50 plastic bottles for one “Biosphere Bottle,” a reusable type of water container, which guests can fill up at one of the 13 water stations around the island. In total, 220,000 plastic bottles have been collected since December 2013. Preserving the local environment positively influences the livelihood of the native community.
  3. Prainha do Canto Verde, Brazil
    The native land of Prainha do Canto Verde, a coastal village located in the northeastern Brazillian state of Ceará has been threatened by illegal fishing and tourism development projects. As a result, the community decided to create its own tourism council in 1998. Since then, community tourism has come to represent 15 percent of the town’s source of income. Many of the initiatives they offer include “posadas,” or community inns, workshops and crafts, cooking, cultural activities and native fishing. The posadas are a true example of community-based tourism. Local residents offer up a few rooms in their homes to tourists. One posada, “Sol e Mar,” features a restaurant, garden, and six rooms which can accommodate up to 18 guests. Many families that run posadas end up registering with the Ministry of Tourism and joining the community’s council. It is an enriching experience for the locals that also improves living standards within the native community. Additionally, it allows locals to craft tourism activities and opportunities themselves so that there is little risk of endangerment to their culture. Overall, this tourism initiative in Prainha is actively working towards large goals to redistribute income and preserve the surrounding ecosystem of the village.

The Big Picture

When tourists support sustainable tourism, they are actively taking steps to meet locals, hear their experiences first-hand, and participate in greater causes to combat poverty in those regions. Sustainable tourism allows people to make a social impact on the place they are visiting and the initiatives mentioned above are just some of the few that are providing that opportunity.

– Melina Benjamin
Photo: Flickr

Phare Ponleu Selpak circus schoolBattambang, Cambodia
The room is dark with a spotlight and hard bleachers. One young person enters from stage left juggling three red balls. Another performer helps the juggler onto a cylinder. Barefoot, the juggler is now balancing and juggling. Soon they add another cylinder at a 90-degree angle to the first, followed by another cylinder and another. The juggler is now five feet off the ground, still balancing and juggling. Phare Battambang Circus is a human-only circus in Battambang, Cambodia with goals well beyond entertainment that involves its idea of The Brightness of the Arts.  It strives to fight poverty in Cambodia through the arts.

The Phare Battambang Circus

The Phare Battambang Circus runs through a Cambodian nonprofit, Phare Ponleu Selpak (PPS) or The Brightness of the Arts, which provides a “nurturing and creative environment where young people access quality arts training, education and social support.” Sparked in 1986 in a refugee camp on the Thai/Cambodian border, Phare Ponleu Selpak uses a whole child approach through arts, education and social support to break intergenerational patterns of poverty steeped in the long history of state-sponsored violence. While the violence of the Khmer Rouge has retreated, children in Cambodia still struggle with extensive social problems such as poor school retention, drug abuse, poor working conditions, domestic violence, illegal migration and exploitation.

Now a must-do for visiting tourists, high season at the Phare Battambang Circus means at least 150 visitors a night. About 40 percent of nightly circus revenue goes to the youth performers themselves. This income supports families around Battambang and keeps youth out of more destructive industries like human trafficking in Thailand. PPS estimates that over 1,000 lives should positively change every year through its free-of-charge artistic, general education and personalized social support. Its arts education and artistic performances are changing the lives of families living in poverty in Cambodia.

The Khmer Rouge Regime

Under the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979, the party’s radical Maoist and Marxist-Leninist agenda governed all aspects of everyday life in Cambodia. In its effort to render the country a classless agricultural utopia, the Khmer Rouge asserted that only the culturally pure could participate in the revolution. As such, the Khmer Rouge “executed hundreds of thousands of intellectuals; city residents; minority people such as the Cham, Vietnamese and Chinese and many of their own soldiers and party members, who were accused of being traitors.” Recent estimates place the death toll between 1.2 and 2.8 million.

The people the Khmer Rouge found to be nonconforming went to prison camps, the most notorious being S-21 where the regime imprisoned over 12,000 people and only 15 survived. Such widespread violence forced millions into refugee camps for years after the fall of the Khmer Rouge.

At Site II, a refugee camp on the Thai/Cambodian border, a French artist and humanitarian worker named Véronique Decrop started offering informal drawing classes for the children at the camp orphanage.

How Site II Grew into PHARE

Classes at Site II grew into PHARE, a French association and acronym meaning Patrimoine Humain et Artistique des Réfugiés et de leurs Enfants (Human and Artistic Heritage of the Refugees and their Children). Communications and Marketing Coordinator for Phare Ponleu Selpak Morgane Darrasse said, “The original idea was to develop a form of art therapy for them to escape and overcome the traumas of war.” Over time PHARE grew into Phare Ponleu Selpak or The Brightness of the Arts.

When Site II closed in 1992, Veronique and nine of her students moved to Battambang to create a sustainable school for the most affected children from the surrounding area. By 1995, the school accepted its first students and to this day, four of the original founders are still active in PPS.

Thanks to state-wide violence, all founders of PPS grew up in refugee camps segregated from their own cultural traditions. When it came time to implement music and dance programs at PPS, the founders chose to spotlight Cambodian traditional music. Derasse said, “They felt it their duty to revive the dying Cambodian arts” while fighting poverty in Cambodia.

Phare Ponleu Selpak Supports Its Students

Even though drawing classes with PHARE were the first seed, Phare Ponleu Selpak now has a thriving visual and performing arts curriculum as well as a strong outreach and social work foundation to support students find job placements and networking opportunities through and after their education. In its efforts to create a sustainable arts community, PPS ensures that 100 percent of students who complete their secondary or vocational training with it achieve employment within three months of graduation. This sustainable long-term approach lessens the intergenerational hold of poverty in Cambodia.

One student, Monisovanya RY, studied visual arts and graphic design through PPS. Upon graduation, PPS hired her into the PPS communications team to coordinate product design and production. In her free time, she creates performances in local galleries to cultivate an understanding of the environmental dangers of plastic waste.

Morgane Darrasse for PPS boasts, “We provide our students with communication and life skills, and also a complete set of technical skills, a strong fundamental and cultural knowledge of the arts, and the ability to understand, analyze and respond to a given problem with professionalism and creativity.”

The organization’s graphic and animation graduates work in advertising, marketing and animation production, and all local circus instructors are graduates of the program itself. Its goal is the creation of a sustainable arts community.

PPS’s Child Protection Program

In addition to pursuing arts programming, PPS’s Child Protection Program (CPP) asserts the inherent value of children’s rights. It wants communities to be safe and to provide families with the tools to care for their children. These programs extend into the three communes surrounding Battambang.

In collaboration with 32 NGOs based in Battambang and generous international donors, CPP follows, tracks and supports students and their families through a family needs assessment process and a monthly student sponsorship program. Most PPS participants come from these local communes because of the intense time commitment their programs require. PPS established a scholarship program for its visual arts program recently, which has made it accessible to young people from other parts of Cambodia.

Phare Ponleu Selpak or The Brightness of the Arts saves lives and combats poverty in Cambodia. In 2013, PPS received a royal award of $31,000 from the Netherlands. The Dutch Ambassador said PPS gets at the heart of their award requirements “to promote the use of culture as a means of development.”

Sarah Boyer
Photo: Phare Ponleu Selpak

Women’s Health care in CambodiaThe Southeast Asian nation of Cambodia is currently experiencing its worst in maternal mortality rates. In Cambodia, maternal-related complications are the leading cause of death in women ages 15 to 46. The Minister of Health has created several partnerships with organizations such as USAID to help strengthen its healthcare system. Here are five facts about women’s health care in Cambodia.

Top 5 Facts About Women’s Health Care in Cambodia

  1. Health Care Professionals and Midwives
    USAID has provided a helping hand when it comes to educating healthcare professionals and midwives. Since USAID’s partnership with the Ministry of Health, USAID has helped raise the percentage of deliveries assisted by skilled professionals from 32 percent to 71 percent. The Ministry of Health was also able to implement the Health Sector Strategic Plan to improve reproductive and women’s maternal health in Cambodia.
  2. Health Care Facilities
    Between 2009 and 2015, the number of Comprehensive Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care (CEmONC) facilities increased from 25 to 37. With more access and an increase in healthcare facilities, 80 percent of Cambodian women are giving birth in health care facilities.
  3. Postpartum Care
    The Royal Government of Cambodia renewed the Emergency Obstetric & Newborn Care (EmONC) Improvement Plan and extended the Fast Track Initiative Roadmap for Reducing Maternal and Newborn Mortality to 2020. This aims to improve women’s health care in Cambodia to improve the lives of women living with postpartum depression. It is also used to improve newborn care and deliveries.
  4. Obstetric Care
    Obstetric care has improved rapidly. According to a 2014 Cambodia Demographic and Health Survey, 90 percent of mothers receive obstetric care two days after giving birth, and three-quarters of women receive care three hours after. Intensive obstetric care has helped drop Cambodia’s maternal mortality rate significantly. In 2014, Cambodia’s maternal mortality rates decreased from 472 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2005 to 170 deaths per 100,000 live births.
  5. U.N. Women
    U.N. Women is working closely to help address the AIDS epidemic in Cambodia. The organization’s efforts to reduce the epidemic focus on protection and prevention. In 2003, 3 percent of Cambodian women reported being tested for AIDS. It has also been observed women in urban areas are more likely to get tested than those in rural areas. Ultimately, Cambodia has set a goal to eradicate AIDS from the country by 2020 through prevention and protection.

Cambodia has seen much economic growth over the years, but the money provided for health care is minimal. Consequently, it is difficult for the government to provide all services. However, there have been great strides in improving women’s healthcare in Cambodia. By fighting to better the lives of women, the Cambodian government has set a goal to establish universal health care by 2030.

Andrew Valdovinos
Photo: Flickr

Improving Mental Health in CambodiaThere are two main factors that have lead to the need for improving mental health issues in Cambodia today.

First, is the Khmer Rouge. The Khmer Rouge was a genocide in the late 1970s that ultimately killed four million Cambodians. The ruthless regime of the Khmer Rouge left many survivors with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) from witnessing such horrific crimes against humanity.

Second, is the high rates of poverty that plague Cambodia. The mass destruction of Cambodia’s infrastructure during the Khmer Rouge left the country poverty stricken, losing decades of development in a just few years. As a result, living in poverty poses itself as a large risk factor for mental illnesses, causing many Cambodians without PTSD from the genocide to still be at a high risk of struggling with mental health.

Specifically targeting educated people and those unable to work, the Khmer Rouge left the country with only a few dozen medical professionals by the genocide’s end. Moreover, it has taken decades for Cambodia to develop the organizations necessary to combat such deeply-rooted mental health struggles. Here are four organizations improving mental health in Cambodia today.

4 Organizations Improving Mental Health in Cambodia

  1. Transcultural Psychological Organization (TPO Cambodia)
    TPO Cambodia recognizes the gap between mental health services needed and the mental health services provided in Cambodia. Through recognizing this gap, TPO Cambodia has developed an extensive array of mental health services. For instance, services are aimed at community building, raising awareness and providing psychological treatment. By focusing on the cultural context of Cambodia, TPO Cambodia aims to develop culturally aware treatment options for patients. Some of the many services available at TPO Cambodia are:

    • Offering the training of already-established community leaders to be key mental health resources for the community
    • Trauma treatment
    • Counseling and therapy
    • Self-help groups for victims of sexual assault and of the Khmer Rouge
    • Protection of children
  2. Cambodian National Program for Mental Health
    Secondly, training mental health professionals are just the beginning for the Cambodian National Program for Mental Health. With its primary goal being to support the Cambodian Ministry of Health, this program continues to help increase the number of properly-trained mental health professionals in Cambodia. This is so foundational as Cambodia needs more trained mental health professionals to properly address the mental health needs of the country. In addition to training mental health professionals, the Cambodian National Program for Mental Health:

    1. Provides mental health services to 23 out of 24 Cambodian provinces
    2. Introduced computerized documentation for client’s files
    3. Supports the primary psychiatric facility in Phnom Penh
    4. Develops the Psychosocial Rehabilitation Centre
  3. Center for Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CCAMH)
    Also dedicated to supporting the mental health struggles of children and their families, CCAMH strives to help children in the community, at school and at their center. So, by providing counseling and awareness-building services at school and in the community, CCAMH’s primary resources are at their center. For example, some of the services available at the center are:

    • Play therapy
    • Behavior therapy
    • Psychosocial Education
    • Multi-Model Therapeutic Intervention
    • Individual and family counseling
  4. Social Services of Cambodia (SSC)
    Finally, the primary focus of SSC is to dismantle the negative stigmas associated with mental health professionals in Cambodia. For example, SSC aims to change the negative public opinions by spreading messages busting stigma-centric myths about mental health professionals to schools, government officials and the public. Additionally, SSC encourages future university students to get involved in social work and recognize the value of social work professionals.

Overall, with very little allocated to mental health services in Cambodia’s public health budget, government-run mental health programs are severely underfunded. Therefore, compiled with the severe stigma against psychiatric help in Cambodia, the discouraging of many health professionals to go into the mental health field leave Cambodia with a monetary and human resource deficit to properly manage nationwide mental health struggles. Fortunately, there are these four organizations improving mental health in Cambodia to help pave the way towards a solution.

– Amy Dickens
Photo: Flickr

TPO CambodiaThe Khmer Rouge was a genocide in Cambodia that resulted from a civil war, leaving 4 million dead and millions more traumatized. The destruction of Cambodia’s infrastructure during the Khmer Rouge has greatly contributed to poverty levels in the country and the struggle to rebuild the country. Since the Khmer Rouge specifically targeted doctors and educated people (leaving the country devoid of healthcare professionals), it took decades for mental health treatment to be available. Thankfully, organizations like the Transcultural Psychological Organization (TPO Cambodia) have emerged to help combat the negative mental health impacts of the Khmer Rouge and poverty. Here are 4 ways TPO Cambodia provides mental health aid.

4 Ways TPO Cambodia Provides Mental Health Aid

  1. Raising Awareness of Mental Health Among Locals: TPO Cambodia builds upon already established relationships to develop new mental health leaders in communities. It does this by training already established leaders in Cambodian communities in the basics of psychosocial education and how to refer those in need. This strategy is respectful of Cambodian social structures while, at the same time, raises awareness of mental health. TPO Cambodia conducts various mental health awareness programs in schools, pagodas and on the radio. These programs have been proven to increase understanding of psychosocial issues in families and leave people empowered to know how to take action to aid their mental health.Raising awareness of the importance of mental health also helps prevent mental health issues by increasing mental wellness practices. One story highlighted a man who was traumatized when attacked by robbers. The event left the man incredibly violent and, eventually, his family had to chain him up in fear of their own lives. Once the family learned of TPO Cambodia, they were able to provide him the treatment he needed, allowing him to heal and be free from chains.
  2. Building Communities: One positive impact TPO Cambodia sees from increased mental health awareness has been stronger communities. These two aspects build upon one another, the larger community raises more awareness and raised awareness strengthens the community. Trained individuals facilitate self-help groups, providing a community space for people to problem solve on shared struggles, share personal experiences and feel more socially connected. Some community programs currently available through TPO Cambodia are healing for victims of the Khmer Rouge, mental health for sexual assault victims, promoting gender equality and working for the protection of children.
  3. Providing Psychological Treatment Services: TPO Cambodia is staffed with experienced clinical professionals that offer a variety of mental health services for psychosocial, psychological and psychiatric conditions. Services available are decided based on an individual’s needs. Some of the services available at TPO Cambodia are trauma treatment, psychiatric assessment and treatment and counseling and therapy. It also provides help for issues such as insomnia, alcoholism and depression.
  4. Research Projects: All research projects TPO Cambodia conducts specifically focus on the cultural context of Cambodia. Through research projects, TPO Cambodia has developed a culturally aware version of “Testimonial Therapy” for traumatized victims of the Khmer Rouge. This therapy aids in helping victims find closure and to associate traumas with a more positive state of mind.  The various research projects TPO Cambodia is involved in aims to gain a better understanding of how traumatic events have impacted its people as well as understand better how this information can improve TPO Cambodia’s current therapeutic practices.

With a majority of mental health issues worldwide residing in impoverished communities, mental health issues need to be actively considered in the eradication of poverty. Living in poverty presents itself as a huge risk factor for many mental health struggles. TPO Cambodia’s method of incorporating the Cambodian cultural context into every part of their work has shown to positively impact communities while maintaining a crucial understanding and respect of cultural norms. These 4 ways TPO Cambodia provides mental health aid show how organizations can work to end the vicious cycle of poverty and mental health in their own communities.

Amy Dickens

Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Cambodia
Currently, Cambodia has the 122nd highest ranking in the world in terms of life expectancy. The men in the country are projected to live an average of 67.3 years and the women are projected to live 71.2 years. The following top 10 facts about life expectancy in Cambodia will provide a better understanding and insight into how the Cambodian people live and what mostly affects their lives.

Top 10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Cambodia

  1. According to the World Health Organization, Cambodia is one of the six countries that has made the greatest progress when it comes to raising the country’s life expectancy. Cambodia came forth on the list, behind Maldives, Ethiopia and Liberia. Since 1990, Cambodia has increased its life expectancy rate from the previous average of 54 years to 72 years in 2012.
  2. Cambodia has also managed to lower its mortality rate. In 1990, Cambodia had a mortality rate of 116 per 1,000 live births. This rate was lowered to 40 per 1,000 live births by 2012.
  3. Cambodia’s increase of funding of health organizations from GDP has aided the rise of the country’s life expectancy. In previous years, Cambodian people have had limited access to quality health care, which was primarily due to the country’s political instability. This led to an increase in major health problems, such as malnutrition, malaria, tuberculosis and diarrheal diseases.
  4. Cambodia has struggled with an unbalance in the country’s age structure, due to a genocide that occurred in the country from 1975 to 1979 during the Khmer Rouge years. Because of this, about 63 percent of Cambodia’s population was under 30 years old, with around half of the country’s population younger than 15 years old.
  5. Cambodia has never had a McDonald’s. While there have been many countries, such as Iceland and Bolivia, that have managed to drive McDonald’s out of their countries, Cambodia remains one of the few countries that McDonald’s has never had a presence in. Cambodians have plenty of other popular American fast-food chain restaurants, such as Burger King and KFC. They even have their own version of McDonald’s, known as “Lucky Burger.” However, this lack of presence from such a major fast-food chain restaurant has helped Cambodian citizens to maintain their commendable national diet.
  6. The insects featured in many Cambodian dishes may have better health benefits than was previously thought. Studies have proven that eating bugs could combat obesity, which plays a significant role in determining how long a person might live. Insects are also reported to be low in carbohydrates and fat content while being rich in protein, healthy fats, iron and calcium. This strange eating habit has indirectly influenced life expectancy in the country.
  7. Cambodian diet mostly consists of fish, vegetables and rice. This type of diet provides people with many kinds of vitamins and minerals as well as doubling down on healthy fats and lean protein. For these reasons, researchers have referred to this type of diet as being one of the healthiest diets to follow.
  8. In 2014, Cambodia’s increased growth in its rice market led to a massive decrease in its poverty rate. For the country that previously had a poverty rate of 47.8 percent in 2007, Cambodia managed to significantly lower this rate to an astounding 13.5 percent in 2014, mainly due to the rice exports.
  9. Cambodia increased its productivity in rice markets through raised prices and a better transportation system. This provides a good example of how Cambodia managed to improve its economic structure, particularly for its rural population. Cambodia has been recorded to have one of the fastest-growing rates for its economy in Asia. For the past decade, Cambodia has had an average growth rate of more than 6 percent.
  10. More than 90 percent of Cambodians were reported to live in impoverished rural areas. These people are heavily dependent on agriculture and are directly affected, as seen with the improved rice market productivity, by changes made in Cambodia’s economic system. Improved conditions in the country can have a huge effect on life expectancy in Cambodia, as this can lead to a separation from the current status of a low-income country.

In many ways, these top 10 facts about life expectancy in Cambodia show how far the nation has come in an attempt to recover from the severe consequences it has suffered because of the instability and corruption of its past political regimes. At the same token, some of these facts are an example of opportunities that the country can use to continue its growth and to achieve the goal of alleviating poverty.

– Jordan Melinda Washington

Photo: Flickr

The Connection Between Sand Mining and Poverty in Cambodia
The practice of sand mining has spelt disaster for fishing communities in Cambodia. For more than a decade, sand mining in Cambodia has contributed to the collective poverty of fishing communities as well as displacement. Although Cambodia officially banned the export of sand in 2017, the connection between sand mining and poverty in Cambodia is a lasting one.

Southeast Asian Expansion

Singapore has enlarged its landmass by almost a quarter its size since its independence in 1965, going from 224 to 277 square miles. Singapore considers reclamation a key strategy for accommodating its growing urban population. In fact, the country has artificially expanded the size of its land mass with sand, thus making the Southeast Asian nation one of the world’s largest sand importers.

After Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam grew tired of feeding Singapore’s insatiable appetite for sand; sand mining in Cambodia then took off in 2007 after Indonesia banned sand exports in the same year.

Cambodia, Poverty and Sand Mining

In 2007, the government of Cambodia begun granting private companies concessions to mine rivers for sand. From 2007 to 2017, the U.N. reports that Singapore imported more than 72 million tons of sand from Cambodia. In 2015, Cambodia was number 7 on the top 20 list of sand exporting countries, to the tune of more than $53 million.

A practice called ‘dredging’ sucks up sand a few feet below the marine floor, disturbing the water. Even temporary increases in turbidity interfere with spawning and suffocate coral reefs. Over-dredging in waterways can lower stream bottoms and disrupt the natural sedimentary processes, leading to the erosion of riverbanks.

Environmental Impacts

Environmental groups report that the dredging industry has threatened several species of endangered dolphins, turtles, otters and mangrove forests. Sand mining in Cambodia has also led to the destruction of Cambodia’s only natural protection against riverbank erosion, rising sea levels, tsunamis and hurricanes.

The connection between sand mining and poverty in Cambodia is seamless. The known dredging concessions were in Koh Kong and Preah Sihanoak provinces on Cambodia’s western shore. People in the fishing villages were not consulted by the companies or informed by local authorities before operations began. In the village of Koh Sralau, sand dredging has ravaged the ecosystem that thousands of families depend on for their livelihood.

Detrimental Dredging

According to Global Witness, every month in 2010 dredgers extracted more than 850,000 tons of sand from Koh Kong province alone. In 2010, residents of Koh Sralau told Global Witness that the fish catch had declined by 50 percent since the dredging ships arrived. In 2016, residents of Koh Sralau told the Thomas Reuters Foundations that the sand dredging industry had sent their once prosperous fishing community into poverty. One man said that before the Vietnamese sand dredgers occupied the area, he could expect to earn $50 a day fishing for crab; alternatlely, in 2016 he was only seeing $10 and was unable to afford to send his children to school.

Sand mining in Koh Sralau has incurred a wave of displacement. Since the sand dredging began, every family in Koh Sralau has lost a family member, which forces such people to migrate to other places and other countries to find work. People are quite literally losing the land they live on — banks along the rivers in both provinces have become so eroded that people have lost their homes, farms and shops due to landslides.

River Reclamation & Ban on Sand

After years of community organizing and protests by environmental groups, the fishing communities of Cambodia have their rivers back. In July 2017, Cambodia placed a permanent ban on sand for construction and sand mud exports. In addition to this good news for the fishing communities of Koh Kong and Preah Sihanoak, sand from Cambodia will also no longer be sold to Singapore, putting Southeast Asia in a stronger position for environmental and economic sustainability.

– Sasha Kramer

Photo: Flickr

Private Sector Key to Eliminating Malaria in Cambodia
Having already made substantial progress in the effort to eradicate malaria, Cambodia is one of the 17 countries in Southeast Asia looking to continue finding solutions to this problem and putting an end to this disease by 2025. The strategy of eliminating malaria in Cambodia hinges on a joint effort between the public sector and the private sector. With proposed solutions made by this collaboration, Cambodia is on the road to eliminating the disease by its projected period.

Malaria in Cambodia Numbers

In Cambodia, 1 million people become infected with malaria every year. Despite this high number of infections, there has been substantial progress made in working to find solutions to eradicating malaria. For example, in 2015, Youyou Tu received The Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for her discovery of artemisinin, a type of anti-malarial medicine that is being used today.

While efforts have been made in eradicating malaria in Cambodia, there is still a lot that needs to be done in order to achieve this goal. Of the 1 million people who become affected by malaria, around 1.5 percent and 10 percent of people that are located in distant provinces die. The parasite responsible for these deaths is the Plasmodium falciparum. To prevent the occurrence and spread of this disease, early intervention with artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) is the key. Yet, distribution of antimalarial medicines remains a challenge. While there are immediate and positive effects of ACT therapy, many people are not able to receive this medicine.

PSI/Cambodia

One organization that working on ending malaria in Cambodia is Population Services International/Cambodia (PSI/Cambodia). The purpose of this initiative is to work on health issues caused by HIV/AIDS, malaria and reproductive health of women who are going to give birth. In 2003, a program of PSI/Cambodia started to offer malaria treatment with the help of private clinics, pharmacies and shops in many parts of rural Cambodia. Of total Cambodia’s population, the poor are particularly at risk of getting the disease. As shown by this initiative, the private sector remains crucial for ending malaria in Cambodia.

Solutions to Ending Malaria in Cambodia

To meet the need for antimalarial medicines, the Global Fund, an international partnership organization, has proposed some essential solutions by the public sector working with the private sector for eradicating malaria in Cambodia. The first is to make sure there is access to effective antimalarial medicines that the private sector provides. This proposal also means the dispose of fake antimalarial drugs that are currently in the market. In addition, this means also the disposal of antimalarial drugs that do not meet the national guidelines.

Secondly, the report of the Global Fund urges organizations in the private sector to make sure they provide effective diagnostic testing. Lastly, the Global Fund recommends that there is widespread access to affordable antimalarial medicines for eradicating malaria in Cambodia, in order to allow for those living on less than $1.25 a day to purchase afford this life-saving treatment.

One way to achieve these proposals is subsidizing antimalarial medicines in order to allow consumers to be able to buy them. Another way to increase distribution of antimalarial medicine is through social marketing. In addition to making sure there is an effective treatment at a cost that people can afford, these same two strategies can be used for diagnostic testing.

With much progress having been made to end malaria in Cambodia, there is room for more improvement in order to reach the goal of eradicating the disease by 2025. With more joint effort between the public sector and private sector through subsidizing prices of antimalarial medicine, Cambodia can move one step closer to eradicating malaria.

– Daniel McAndrew-Greiner
Photo: Flickr