Farmers from Koh Chamkar village in southwest Cambodia are working with NatureLife Cambodia to support crane populations. They lease their land to the nonprofit, which pays them 10 years’ rent upfront. The farmers then grow native short-grain rice varieties on the land, which is left in the fields after harvest to feed the cranes. For farmers who do not want to commit to a full lease, they can sign an agreement with NatureLife where they leave five percent of their harvest in the field in exchange for the market value of that rice. They must also agree to farm the land without fertilizers or chemicals.
To support farmers, NatureLife also provides them with subsidized seeds, organic fertilizers, and pesticides as well as training in organic farming techniques. This symbiotic relationship serves the dual purpose of supporting farmers while preventing the fields from being sold to developers.
So far, 16 farmers have agreed to rent their land outright to the nonprofit and more than 40 participate in the five percent buyback program. These efforts help protect the threatened sarus crane and the highly endangered eastern sarus crane. NatureLife hopes that the program will help boost easter sarus crane populations, which currently sit at just 200 birds.