Agricultural experts thought Cambodian farmer Suth Sen had gone mad when he started cutting and tying back the fronds of his sugar palms to form nesting sites for bats.
Suth Sen, a rural smallholder from the Bati District who supports his eight family members by farming his one hectare of rice, a pond, six chickens and two pigs, learned this farming technique from a neighbour. He was soon collecting between five and ten kilos of fresh bat droppings (guano) from under one of his trees. Up to 50, 000 bats nest in any one tree at a time. When the nesting area becomes dirty Sen creates new nesting sites in new trees, luring the bats to them with bananas, and cleans the old nests out.
The guano is very pungent but provides five times more nutrients than the phosphate fertilizer he could buy in the market. Sen spreads half over his rice field, 30 per cent on his wife’s vegetable plot, and uses the rest to promote phytoplankton in his pond for his fish to eat.
Now his rice fields are flourishing with five-per-cent more yield.
Sen’s ingenious system is environmentally friendly and economically sound, and showed visiting agricultural experts how much they could learn from traditional farmers’ knowledge.Don Griffiths
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