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Cambodian Initiative to Turn Invasive Water Hyacinth into Opportunity with Floating Vegetable Gardens

Phnom Penh, April 1, 2024 – In an innovative approach to tackling the environmental challenges posed by water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes), the Fisheries Administration is spearheading a program aimed at transforming this invasive species into a resource for climate-resilient livelihoods among community fisheries in the Tonle Sap Lake.

Water hyacinth, known locally as “kamplauch,” is an invasive species that has plagued waterways across Cambodia, disrupting local ecosystems and fisheries. However, a new initiative, inspired by successful models in Bangladesh, is set to repurpose the fast-growing plant for floating vegetable gardens, providing a sustainable income source for local communities, especially women.

Dr. Heng Kong, Director of the Inland Fisheries Research and Development Institute (IFReDI), highlighted the potential of these gardens to empower women living on the lake. The program, which aligns with the Royal Government’s Pentagonal Strategy, aims to enhance the livelihoods of women's groups within existing community fisheries around Tonle Sap Lake.

Pilot projects are slated to commence in April in two community fisheries located in Krakor district in Pursat Province and Kampong Svay district in Kampong Thom Province. These communities, already involved in fish processing and savings cooperatives, are set to expand their activities to include the cultivation of high-nutrition crops on floating gardens constructed from water hyacinth.

Dr. Kong’s recent visit to Bangladesh, alongside Dr. Mak Sithirith of WorldFish, showcased the viability and success of such gardens. WorldFish, a global research organization, is considering support for the initiative, recognizing its alignment with international goals for sustainable food, land, and water systems.

Floating garden farming in Bangladesh, recognized by the FAO as a “globally important agricultural heritage system,” has seen remarkable growth, demonstrating the potential for similar success in Cambodia. The pilot projects will focus on cultivating fast-growing plants such as cauliflower, tomatoes, coriander, and trakoun (water spinach), selected for their suitability to local conditions and nutritional value.

This innovative approach to managing water hyacinth, dubbed “one of the world's worst weeds” by the IUCN, not only offers a solution to an environmental problem but also contributes to community resilience and food security. By converting a challenge into an opportunity, Cambodia is taking a step forward in sustainable development and ecological restoration.

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