Cambodia's Farmers, Battered By Floods, Are Unable To Pay Their Debts

 @SophieXSong
on October 11 2013 11:13 AM
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A farmer plants rice seedlings in a paddy field on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on July 11, 2013. REUTERS/Samrang Pring

Farmers in Cambodia are facing massive debts and little recourse to pay them back as the Mekong River's rising waters flood crops ruin up to half of the normal harvests.  

A similar 2011 flood saddled farmers and farming communities across Cambodia with widespread debtaccording to the Phnom Penh Post, a Cambodian newspaper. Some farmers who couldn’t pay their debts or buy needed supplies for the following year lost their land.

“I think the flood this year is very bad, it is almost worse than 2011,” ssaid Srey Chanty, the president of the Cambodian Economic Association, who has been visiting flood-affected areas throughout the country.

2011's flooding affected 1.64 million people and displaced nearly 51,600 families. The flooding that year killed 247 people, the National Committee for Disaster Management said.

More than 420,000 hectares of Cambodia’s rice fields were impacted, and more than 10 percent were destroyed. The damage cost approximately $624 million, according to estimates from the Asian Development Bank, and nearly $180 million of those losses was agricultural.

At the time, the government met with microfinancing institutions to request more flexible repayment arrangements for farmers to cope with increased household debt. Authorities said it is too early to assess the extent and cost of this year’s damage, but initial estimates put land affected or at risk at more than 120,000 hectares and rising, the Phnom Penh Post reported. The death toll has already passed 100 this week.

Some farmers are already resorting to selling household items to pay back their debt.

“I am trying to sell my moto to pay back the money that I owe,” said Sum Sam, a 41-year-old farmer who owes $1,000 to an informal lender after his four hectares of fields were destroyed. “I need to take another loan to restart my farm and for food as well.”

 

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