PREY VENG -- With a big smile on his face, 50 year-old Min Sam Eun waits patiently for his name to be called out by the WFP team. We are in Yuos village, Sithor Kandal District, Prey Veng Province, at the first food distribution WFP is carrying out as part of its EMOP (Emergency Operation) Food-for-Assets project in the area. Like all participants in the distribution today, Sam Eun’s family faces a daily struggle to put enough food on the table after being severely affected by last year’s floods, the worst in a decade.
Floods have been a rarity in this particular area as the common seasonal threat has in fact been drought. Both Sam Eun’s rice production and his livestock were devastated by the floodwaters, leaving his family of five (his wafe, a daughter and two sons) all but destitute.
He was able to save some paddy rice to sell from his small one hectare plot, which allowed him and two of his children to travel to Kampong Cham and Phnom Penh to work as labourers. Although there is a lean season every year between August and October, when food shortages are expected, the floods came as a complete surprise, forcing Eun’s family to employ a number of negative survival strategies, including reducing the amount of food they ate each day, and taking out additional loans and migration.
Sam Eun, along with other community members in Yous Village, is working to rehabilitate a road that was damaged by the floods. "Fixing this road will make it easier to take my harvest to the main areas and markets, reducing transportation costs.” The workers include Sam’s 18-year-old son, who is still in school but still insists on working on the road during school holidays.
Sam Eun is grateful for work after the difficulties caused by the floods. “The rice that my household will receive from WFP for working on this road will be enough for around three to four months,” he says.
In addition to their participation in the projects, the family raises livestock such as pigs and chicken for a living. When asked about the future, Sam Eun points out that the seasonal difficulties in this village are droughts, and to prevent periods of food shortages he recommends that future Food-for-Assets projects should aim to improve the irrigation system in his village.