Did you know that over 40% of children in Cambodia have their growth stunted by malnutrition? This means that almost half of the children there have their cognitive and motor development impaired because their mother was unable to provide adequate nutrition in the prenatal and neonatal stages of her infant’s life.
This statistic from UNICEF has earned Cambodia a spot on the United Nation’s list of alarming countries, as stunting in the long-run also has immense and lasting health repercussions on populations. You can learn more about the phenomenon of stunting with this World Health Organization video:
This is why District 5300 and Community First, an international nonprofit based in Pasadena have joined forces this Rotary year to spread a solution that empowers mothers in rural areas to produce bountiful and nutritional harvests all year long. This is made possible through the innovative farming techniques of aquaponics.
Aquaponics is an agricultural system that brings together the best of fish farming and vegetable gardening with using as little water as possible, using a hydroponic system. By farming this way and without using soil, villagers are able to produce crops for their own subsistence or to sell at local markets.
Mrs. Tap of Smach village explains that she and her fellow aquaponic farmers were the only ones able to farm during the dry season. Her vegetable sales were so successful she was able to finance a small truck which she will use to bring her harvest to neighboring villages.
This one-of-a-kind project helps the people of Sen Sok, Cambodia preserve their water through the drought while allowing the most vulnerable farmers to meet their subsistence need or create a small business. But perhaps most importantly, it helps provide a source of better nutrition which empowers mothers to provide better nutrition to their children, allowing them to reach their full potential.
Community First has been working in Sen Sok and Cambodia for the past 10 years. During that time it has raised $1.3 million dollars and has impacted the lives of over 20,000 people by giving them access to clean drinking water, continuing education and helping provide almost a million school lunches in rural Cambodia.
Today, Community First’s aquaponics program in rural Cambodia is so successful that it has a waiting list. This is why the organization is teaming up with Rotary District 5300, its International Committee and local youth groups in order to help equip 100 families with their own systems and train them. In order to do so, Rotary Clubs and other service groups are invited to donate or help raise or crowdfund $2,000 per family, which will provide for a greenhouse, an aquaponic system, and support and training from the Community First team for a year.
This effort was fast-tracked last week when over $10,000 worth of scholarships for new aquaponic trainers were sponsored at Community First’s fall fundraiser at the Valley Hunt Club in Pasadena, CA. These new trainers will be able to teach the skills and techniques mothers will need to successfully farm throughout the drought and build a successful business from their aquaponic system. In this video, you can meet Mab, our head trainer who will be in charge of teaching the new trainers:
These aquaponic systems can be seen and fully experienced at the Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, CA every Saturday at the Ranch’s open house from 10 AM to 1 PM. Community First uses this demonstration site for educational purposes with local schools but welcomes the general public as well, so come and learn how about climate change resilience and food security with us!
For all inquiries and having this project presented at your service Club, school or other institution, please contact us through this website.
Learn more about the issues Community First is working to address with this video from the World Health Organization (WHO) on malnutrition and stunting and our latest video on aquaponics in Cambodia:
Stunting is largely irreversible: a child cannot recover height in the same way that they can regain weight. Stunted children fall sick more often, miss opportunities to learn, perform less well in school and grow up to be economically disadvantaged, and more likely to suffer from chronic diseases.