The bloom of home gardening and financial literacy

In the beautiful district of TaOi, nestled amongst stunning mountains and blessed with spring-like weather, Somphorn and his family have made their home. With his 23-year-old wife Yuey and their three sons, life is challenging but full of love. Somphorn is the head of the household and brings in the income, relying on cassava plantations as their primary source of financial support. However, with an annual income of only ten million kips (approximately 520 USD), the family often needs help to provide enough nutritious food for everyone. 

Their reliance on non-timber forest products for daily meals exacerbates the issue, as they lack sufficient rice and produce to sustain themselves throughout the year. Furthermore, the sandy soil of TaOi and the absence of proper technical knowledge and equipment make it difficult to grow crops and raise animals at home. Reflecting on their hardships, Somphorn admits, "2 years ago, the vegetables and frogs we tried to farm were not growing well because I did not know the technique."

Fortunately, their circumstances took a turn for the better when they joined the Accelerating Healthy Agriculture and Nutrition (AHAN) project in 2021. This initiative, led by World Vision and funded by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, introduced home gardening and frog-rearing activities to Somphorn's family. 

Through AHAN, Somphorn's family received technical training in gardening, frog-raising, and various vegetable seeds and gardening tools: dill, lettuce, morning glory, a watering can, a water tank 100 L, a shovel, greenhouse plastic sheets, etc. This newfound knowledge and resources allowed them to produce a surplus of vegetables, earning 250,000 kips from selling their produce. "It was a significant milestone for my family, as we had never been able to generate an income from our garden", said Somphorn. 

Inspired by their success, Somphorn's family is now expanding their frog pond with the support of AHAN, who provided them with 120 breeding frogs. Additionally, they have benefited from improved water access due to NGO projects in the area. These advancements have further enhanced their ability to grow their garden and raise animals. Yet, it is not just their financial situation that has improved. The AHAN project also focuses on gender equality and economic empowerment. The spouse joined the Gender Inclusive Financial Training for Nutrition and the Saving for Nutrition Group. Through these programmes, they have gained essential financial knowledge and skills, enabling them to effectively manage their money and save for emergencies.

Furthermore, these initiatives aim to foster gender equality within households, encouraging men and women to make joint financial decisions. Somphorn, recognizing the importance of gender equality, has become more involved in household matters, sharing financial responsibilities with his wife and making decisions together. This newfound unity has brought them closer as a family. 

The impact of AHAN extends beyond the Somphorn family. Over 20,000 individuals in 65 villages have been positively influenced by this project. Caregivers' increased incomes and financial knowledge have improved well-being outcomes for children in these communities. Somphorn reflects on the remarkable changes AHAN has brought to their lives, stating, "I see a positive change: we are healthier, and our family's nutrition improves with more food variety. I save more money, and the burden of financial management is lighter when we make decisions together." 

In TaOi district, the breathtaking landscape now stands as a testament to families like Somphorn's resilience and determination. Through the support of AHAN, they have gained invaluable skills, resources, and the importance of gender equality, transforming their lives and shaping a brighter future for generations to come.