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A Small, Productive Fruit Farm In Cambodia

A newly-planted section of bananas, papayas, and citrus on this organic
fruit farm near Siem Reap, Cambodia.

As I’ve wandered around southeast Asia for the last 10 months I’ve kept my eye out for interesting farming techniques among the locals, but have mostly been disappointed.

Whatever ancestral knowledge of organic, integrated agriculture that may have existed seems to have declined or been lost entirely among the general population of Indonesia, Thailand, and Laos in the last few decades as cheap chemical fertilizers and pesticides have become increasingly prevalent.

When I arrived in Cambodia, though, the story was different. The country is decades behind its neighbors in terms of development because of the famous purges of the Kymer Rouge and years of civil war.

The numerous rural markets in the country still get lots of their produce from
small farmers within a few miles of them.

Although they are fast being repaired and upgraded, the country currently lacks a reliable train network and deep-water cargo port that can take agricultural exports overseas. Beyond a few main roads, much of the country relies on rutted dirt paths that turn into mud pits when the rainy season arrives.

The locals would be all too happy to get chemicals to help them grow cash crops, they tell me, but a combination of poverty, lack of availability, and lack of access to markets has so far kept the majority of them from doing so.

Because of widespread poverty, when you wander around rural Cambodia (‘rural’ applying to just about every area of the country outside of the Capital, Phnom Phen, the tourist-oriented Siem Reap, and a few of the smaller provincial centers) you’ll see thousands of Cambodians engaged in self-sufficient organic agriculture.

One of numerous papaya plants nearly bowed over under
the weight of its fruit at the farm.

Families mostly get by as they have for thousands of years, with rice providing their main staple, supplemental fruit trees and vegetable gardens, and the occasional bit of meat.

Any rural market will be filled with organic fruits and vegetables produced within a few miles of it, with some additional chemical-laden produce imported from Vietnam and Thailand.

As a raw foodist who gets the majority of his calories from fruit, my primary interest lies in orchards and food forests.

The Cambodians simply don’t like fruit as much as the Thais and Malaysians, and grow and consume considerably less of it. Yet just about every bamboo hut in the countryside is surrounded by a stand of banana and papaya plants, with jackfruit, durian, mango, and dragon fruit also being fairly popular.

The majority of these plants tend to be barely managed, with, for instance, banana pseudo stems far too crowded together and lacking in organic inputs for maximum yield, leading to stunted bunches. But, a few days ago a friend of mine took me to a place where things are done differently.

About 15 kilometers east of Siem Reap in a small village near the Bakong temple, there exists a 3-hectare family plot overflowing with multiple types of fruit.

These Dragon Fruits are propped up using poles and old bicycle tires.

The plot has been in the family for about 30 years, explained Leap Veung, a member of the family, through a translator. The techniques used don’t belong to any particular ideology, but are simply what the family has traditionally done.

All the food is sold to locals who come to the farm, Veung said, or is given away to the monks at nearby temples, who are particularly fond of ripe papaya.

In all my travels, I’ve rarely seen fruit trees overflowing with so much abundance. Many of the papaya and banana plants appeared just about ready to fall over under their heavy loads.

Individual trees are not combined in the sense of a food forest, and only some are interplanted, yet the overall site produces all the mulches and other organic inputs needed to fuel the trees. Chickens and ducks range through the site, eating pests and fertilizing.

These banana plants are grown in shallow recesses to collect water and are
mulched heavily. They produce much larger banana bunches than the
unmanaged plants most of the rural Cambodians grow.

The banana corms are planted in recessed holes to allow for water collection. The dragon-fruit-bearing pitaya cacti are propped up on wooden poles capped off with a bicycle tire. Every productive tree is extremely well mulched.

There are a number of citrus fruits on site, many of them grafted onto hardy rootstocks. As I’ve seen done throughout much of Asia, a compress of soil is used to keep the grafting wound from being attacked by insects.

Celery isn’t the easiest thing to grow in the tropics, but this farm produces
lots of it using shades and raised beds.

The site also produces organic celery and other western leafy green vegetables, which are notoriously hard to grow during the warm season in tropical climates. The family uses a combination of overhead shades and raised beds to do this.

They also appear interested in trying new crops. They’ve recently planted two date palms, for instance, one of which is already bearing fruit.

Irrigation is provided by rain and supplemented by watering.

Leap Veung shows off a two-year-old date palm on her farm.

While some may quibble that this doesn’t qualify as a permaculture farm, it is nonetheless an interesting example of an outside-input-free, extremely productive organic system organized through tradition and local ingenuity on a small plot of land.

Although there was a large language barrier between my host and I, and I wasn’t able to ask as many questions as I would have liked, the family has one of the nicer houses in the village, and given the amount of food being produced and the number of marketers stopping by to pick things up, their farming practices may well have been contributing to their prosperity.


  1. Interesting article. It would be good to more understand the actual political situation of the family in the village especially their political pedigree as this may have something to do with their apparent wealth. I think you may have meant “infamous” Khemer Rouge as opposed to “famous”.

  2. My first look at a broad acre poly culture was last year in Bali. The mountain village of Munduk where we stayed was surrounded by a food forest of clove trees, cocoa plants, bananas, pawpaws, and a range of ground cover and shrub species. Nothing look cultivated and everything seemed low-input and self sustaining. It was like walking through a natural forest. Traditional sustainable farming definitely still exists in South East Asia.

  3. the khmer people ..actually eat lots of fruit…just not as much as rice!! for the political situation..well its the same same as everywhere else..people striving and fighting to get ahead of others in one form or another..

  4. Growing dates in the tropics, now that is some good news because I thought it was not possible due to the humidity!

  5. Hi!I’m planning a trip to Cambodia and was wondering if you recommend to eat fruits and vegetables sold at stands in more touristed areas like PhnomPenh or SiemRea or are they too contaminated with pesticides?I eat just fruits and vegetables – will I survive 14 days?:)Thanks.

  6. dear,
    There was always my dream to have a farm filled with fruits tree, vegetables, etc.. i have about 5 hectar of land located at Baraay, Siem Reap. I am looking for someone who can share and knowledge me on how to start a farming. What I need is a one professional individual.

    I will be returning to Siem Reap. Hope I can live happily for the next of my last 30 years. Any recommendations on whom should I talk to. Willing to accomodate for fees, services, etc….

    1. Dear Hul,
      It’s nice to realize that you are interested to gain recommendations to make your farm land work for you. I wish to share you what I have and have been doing here in Pursat and Battambang in terms of farming businesses. If you really need my help, please contact me either through this email or phone (+855 12 209 166/ 10 973 812). Looking forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience. With all reagrds.

  7. Dear Hul:
    I recommend that you begin on your own. You will obviously need to practice both rice farming and fruit and vegetable farming. Do coconuts do well in the Siem Reap area? If they do then I recommend that you plant 50 coconut tress per acre; and plant other crop sin between the coconut trees. Tender coconuts sold for coconut water should fetch a good price for you. If you plant spices like nutmeg, black pepper and ginger between the coconut trees that should also fetch you a good price.

    You should also keep cows on your land for cowdung. Without cows how will you make vast quantities of farmyard manure? I do not know much about Cambodia, but in South Asia, traditional farming relies heavily on cows for making cowdung manure.

    Kindly have a look at my website on organic farming. Forget the experts and learn through doing. Nature will teach you all that you need to become a successful farmer. Good luck and keep me posted. You are welcome to write to me for further suggestions.

  8. I am traveling to Siem Reap at the end of December – is it possible to visit this farm and purchase some of their goods? Ill try and contact you directly. It would be great to interview them. Very cool to read about this – excited to see what it looks like at a community level.

  9. Hello,
    I am in Cambodia and would love to go see this farm.
    Could you give me some contact information to arrange a visit?

  10. I’d also like to check out this farm, if you can provide any details.. Just started an organic garden outside Phnomn Penh with the goal of encouraging locals to adopt organic practices, since many have recently turned to chemical fertilizers.


  11. I have just moved back to Siem reap and would love to visit the farm and buy some produce. Can I grab an address and ph no to contact someone? Cheers

  12. Moving to Siem Reap and searching for sources of organic vegetates and fruits. Next in Siem Reap April 3-9. Also looking for long-term studio or one-bedroom, organic market,restaurant, etc. that may exist.Interested in sharing info. with like-minded individuals focused on health and nutrition. Can be contracted at this email address or at the Viva Hotel near Pub Street, Bob

    1. Hi All
      I am planning a trip this year to Phnom Penh Cambodia. Does any one know if there any (PYO) Pick Your Own Fruit Farm near Phnom Penh? If so Can you please provide me the address or phone numbers, so I can contact them when I get there. Thank you all.

  13. Dear All Visitors/ Experts,

    We are planning to visit Cambodia sometimes in End November this year..
    I would be very grateful of you all who helps me in getting the following areas to visits in Cambodia…
    – fruits mostly citrus; nurseries, protected cultivations (green house) for vegetables & flowers, rain water harvesting systems, spices, preservation of fruits and vegetables and value additions etc.
    – would also be grateful if can recommend a good local operator/ organiser who can help me in doing the ground arrangment/ visits etc

    kindly email me your valuable ideas at: [email protected]

    Thanks to all friends

  14. My family and I have had at least 4,000 poles of dragon-fruits (half in Pursat and Battambang respectively). In Pursat, the farm is over six month old and will produce some fruits from May next year. In Battambang, the farm is two years old and have already produced some fruits and will make more and more from next year onwards.

  15. Hi there, is anyone still checking this website ? i am working in permaculture in Oz , but am now in Cambodia for a few months for some work here.. I have some Cambodian permaculture related questions. may be u can help ? Let me know. Cheers :)

  16. Hello,
    I’m Nico, I’m 34.
    I will travel to cambodia in April, I will be happy to work and learn with you. I need experience in the ecologic friendly department ; because after my trip I would like to open a eco, educational farm but first I wish to work on different projects to complete my skills. I believe in a new world, and I want to participate of this change.
    I love sharing with people, doing and helping them on different things. I hope that you could welcome me, to help me to continue on my ecologic way.
    I looking forward to hear about you,
    thanks for your attention.

  17. would like to import dragon fruit, mangosteen, rumbutan, logan and other fruits from cambodia to india on regular basis. if any supplier please reach me.

  18. Hello Andrew!

    My name is Krisztina. I am a Canadian traveling the world and, right now, around SE Asia as a trained ecologist interested in permaculture and food forests. My parents are coming to visit me in Cambodia at the end of January/beginning of February and I want to show them some examples of permaculture and food forests in Cambodia. Can I visit this farm you wrote about back in 2011? Can you recommend any others? My parents only have 10-14 days in Cambodia, so not much time. It would be ideal if we could visit a farm or two as a day trip if possible, or maybe an overnight trip. Thank you for your help.


    1. I am interested in purchasing some mature fruit trees near my property in Kampong Speu province. Can you help me out as to where i can make this purchase. Thank you!


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