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In Battambang, Growing Ties to Chicken Farms

In wet shorts and a T-shirt, carrying a bundle of fresh water lilies, Thath Narong walked recently along a dusty road toward his home in Battambang province’s Wat Kor commune.

The 35-year-old farmer said he raises 4,000 chickens for a local company, Khun Kim Sour, earning $50 per month. Raising chickens has improved the living conditions of his family, compared to three months ago, when all he did was work a plot of land.

“It is better for us, as I have a job now,” he said. Besides, he said, “when we have chickens, we also have natural fertilizer for our field.”

Down the road, Noy Bondol, 57, another farmer, said she earns even more, up to $250 in a month and a half, raising 7,000 chickens for another company, CP. She has been doing it for about a year.

“The income helps me a lot,” she said recently. “I sold all our harvest in previous years to cover my family’s expenses, but now with the new earnings to spend, we can keep our rice.”

The earnings of both farmers highlight how important chicken farming has become to some people in this northwestern province, even as health and animal experts work to ensure the chickens don’t spread bird flu.

Sok Chheouk, Wat Kor commune chief, said the people in his commune have seen their living standard improving since starting to work with private companies.

“In 1996 or 1997, there were just two or three poultry farms in my commune, but now there are 12,” he said.

According to the provincial agricultural department’s January 2009 report, there are 12 chicken farms owned by Khun Kim Sour and nine by CP.

Noy Bondol said she is not worried about bird flu, as her company takes care of the problem.

“They come every day or every other day to monitor their chicks,” she said, referring to veterinarians for her employer, CP Company.

Chi Chantheoun, head of CP’s Battambang branch, said farmers raising his chicks do not have to worry about an outbreak of the H5N1 virus, as his company takes care of the issue. What a farmer needs, he said, are simply hen houses and workers.

“We have chicks, vets and vaccines to provide,” he said.