Photographer's Note


On my way back to the Tonle Sap Great Lake, I saw a group of farmers taking their break during harvesting over the rice field. I hesitated to use the camera when I discovered this young farmer has one eye blind. I asked my tuktuk driver to ask her, and she agreed…


Cambodia has two rice crops each year: a monsoon-season crop (long-cycle) and a dry-season crop. The major monsoon crop is planted in late May through July, when the first rains of the monsoon season begin to inundate and soften the land. Rice shoots are transplanted from late June through September. The main harvest is usually gathered six months later, in November or December. The dry-season crop is smaller, and it takes only 3 months to harvest. It is planted in November in areas that have trapped or retained part of the monsoon rains, and it is harvested in January or February.

Besides the two regular crops, peasants plant floating rice in April and in May in the areas around the Tonle Sap Great Lake, which floods and expands its banks in September or early October. The seed is spread on the ground before the flooding occurs, without any preparation of the soil, and the floating rice is harvested nine months later, when the stems have grown to three or four meters in response to the peak of the flood: this floating rice is able to adjust its rate of growth to the rise of the flood waters so that its grain heads remain above water. It has a low yield, probably less than half that of most other rice types, but it can be grown inexpensively on ‘wild’ land.

Cambodians harvest their rice during the dry northeastern monsoon. Compared with other cereals, rice plants are quick to mature. Normally, harvest is ready some six months after the seedlings. At that time, farmers prepare a smooth, flat piece of terrace then drain water out to make the curing of stalks easier. The stalks must be cut at exactly the right moment: if the rice is too green, it will rot; if it is too dry, it will become brittle and crumble. Rice stalks are cut by hand with a sickle, then tied together in bunches before being transported to the terrace to be threshed. Threshing is the process to separate the grain. The terrace is covered with a mat made of palm leaves, to facilitate the task of picking up the grains afterward. Trampling the stalks with feet and beating with a stick or trampling by animals are other methods of threshing.

Grains then need to be winnowed, to remove any grit, stones or dirt. Winnowing also separates any remaining bits of husk, straw and chaff. The rice is tossed and shaken on a bamboo tray. Winnowing demands a highly skilled performance.(Source)


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