Battambang, Cambodia FoodMachine update

Published: 18 April 2012

One of the easiest things in the world to do is make a New Year’s resolution. “This year I am going to _______” However, the proof as to the strength of the resolve behind that resolution is not seen with the passion the statement is made in early January, but with what action has taken place toward the resolution being accomplished weeks and months later. The same is true with most things in life. Getting married is easy, having a long lasting and fulfilling marriage takes hard work.

The FoodMachine is no different. In many ways building a FoodMachine is the easy part. Don’t get me wrong, it takes hard work, but the hard work simply doesn’t have any bearing on what the success of the project will be long-term. The “development” and “aid” landscapes are littered with proof of this. Building a project is one thing, but that project working successfully months and years after it was built is an entirely different matter.

Our desire is not that a bunch of FoodMachines get built. We want for FoodMachines to be built in such a way that they succeed for the long term.

We built the small FoodMachine at the University of the Nations in Battambang this past March. When we left at the end of the week we were there, water was running but fish had not yet been added to the system. It was less than ideal, we had to leave the site before the hard work of running the system had begun to take place. But in spite of this, we were encouraged since the team on the ground there was determined and expressed desire to be in it for the long term.

However, the first bit of bad news came soon after getting home. The concrete seemed to still be leaching as we hadn’t given it enough time to cure. So all the plants were removed and planted into the ground while the system was drained to allow the concrete proper time to cure. It was clear this would be the first test of whether or not the system would actually succeed.

The team on the ground made some other modifications to secure the pumps better in preparation for getting the system up and running again. However, we still had no word as to whether or not the system was back in operation.

Just a couple of days ago we got SUCH an encouraging email from the main contact there on the ground. The system is now fully up and running. They have stocked it with fish, built a shade cloth over the plants as they are now entering the hot season, strings have been put in place to support the cucumbers and tomatoes, a covering is over the fish so they can’t be over-fed by well meaning people passing by the system, the system is becoming stable in terms of water quality, and they are making other basic modifications to make the system work better for them. All of these details shout one thing: OWNERSHIP!!!!

We now have full confidence this system will succeed. Why? Certainly not because we did a great job in our short time on the ground. It is because in spite of setbacks, the local team made a decision to get back after it, to ask questions, and then apply their own expertise to make the system a success.