Women Run the Show in this Village
By Yem Srey Tol, Independence News, Cambodia
Ban Baa Nord village, Chiang Mai province – Two women sit on a straw
and plastic mat, chopping fresh lemon grass and pandanus leaves. Wearing
white aprons and white hats, they cut the sweet-smelling herbs, dry them,
and seal them in clear plastic bags. At 4 the next morning, they will get
up to sell their herbal tea at an organic market in Chiang
"This is a chemical-free product," boasts Ban Doeun, 40,
president of a group of women farmers in this village, 50 km southwest of
And this is a debt-free village, thanks to the
The women here not only do the cooking, cleaning,
laundry, and taking care of children, they also are in charge of the
village business. They market organic produce, purchase farm goods and
maintain a savings fund that has allowed farmers to stop borrowing from
banks. They stay up late packaging goods and often work in the fields. If
they have any spare time, they produce herbal medicine.
created this women’s group to help the men’s groups during the economic
crisis," Ban Doeun says.
Since 1977, Ban Doeun and her
38 members – one of two women groups in the village – have built up a
savings fund with assistance from the Northnet, Thai NGO Foundation. The
goal of the savings fund is to help farmers hard hit by the economic
crisis and who need cash to extend their agriculture
Next to Ban Doeun’s house is a small building
where herbs and dried fruit are sold. Established by the women’s group,
the store offers several kinds of herbal medicine, including dry lemon
grass, bale fruit, matoom and dry bamboo shoots. The Thai government
certifies the quality.
" I never cared about basic income, because
I can earn money from herb-medicine," Ban Doeun says. “At least 200
baht per month."
Besides herbal medicine, members of the
group can purchase fertiliser at the store at lower-than-market prices.
Income from all sales is divided three ways: 35 percent goes to the
seller, 35 percent is used to buy stock such as rice and seeds and the
remaining 30 percent goes to the savings fund.
fund now has 30,000 baht. Members of the village contribute 10 baht per
The fund helped 46-year-old Suphan Kanphen buy five
rai of farm land. She didn’t earn much money the first year she grew
organic crops but was still able to pay back the low-interest
" Now I have no more debts," she
In her tiny cottage at the farm, she sits next to a
pair of tall speakers and a cassette player while talking to IMMF
trainees. Her husband and children were collecting the crops. " Money is
not important. I need my family living healthy and happily," she
says and smiles.
But her life was not always like this. Seven
years ago, she worked hard growing tobacco and corn. The heavy chemical
pesticides her family used were blamed for making her husband and daughter
" I could not look after them properly, because of long hours
spent tending the crops," she recalls sadly.
the night, under the light of a full moon, Suphan and her assistant pack
vegetables and fruits – celery, cauliflower, lemon and guava – to be ready
for sale early the next morning at Imboon organic market in Chiang Mai.
The market is organised by Northnet.
At Imboon, the sellers
are mostly women who come from five districts around Chiang Mai town. They
wear light green identity cards issued by Northnet.
" It is good to
sell now," Suphan says while passing a package of Morning Glory to a
patron. "The buyers are interested in organic foods."