Much of Southeast Asia remains brittle and parched through these last weeks of the dry season when the heat builds to oppressive measures. Fields lie empty until the rains begin and new, green life can grow.
But in Siem Reap, around the Tonle Sap, the seasons run counter to that schedule. The dry season is the only time these farmers can grow rice. When the rains come, the great lake rises high, flooding the region and forcing villagers into boats and homes high on stilts. (This ecosystem, by the way, makes for a remarkable bird habitat.)
We caught a few farmers at work recently. Field owner Nou Dara says his hectare of land has fed his family for more than 10 years. “If we have enough to eat, I will take the rest to sell in the market.” He, like many we meet in Siem Reap, admits he would sell his land if someone offered the right price. (Someone did offer a price last year, but it wasn’t high enough for his liking.) “I would stop growing rice,” he says. He would focus on his other job: teaching.