Downstream O Ta Bet

A group of explorers set out to track the downstream path of the mighty O Ta Bet

As part of the downstream canal planning, and the FWUC organization, HT arranged for a group of us to meet and walk the entire length of the downstream O Ta Bet. The group included village chiefs, FWUC members, HT/CTO members, and EWB. As we walked, the village leaders explained where the stream flowed in relation to the Balang commune boundaries. They also pointed out how the water was currently being managed by the farmers - a system of man made dikes and diversions led the water from rice paddy to rice paddy quite effectively. GPS points were taken during the walk to trace the path of the O Ta Bet, for the purpose of canal planning in the future.

Chai, Sourneang, Sovann debating... should we have turned left at that tree back there?

At each twist and turn (or, after we had waded through a rice paddy where the water was knee deep) the group would take a short break in the shade to discuss where we'd been and where we were in reference to our map... and to check for any pesky leeches that were trying to get a free ride on our legs!

Following Bok Kron's sure-footed steps... and trying to move faster than the leeches.

As we made our way downstream, we stopped in to a crocodile farm whose owner has recently decided to take on relatively large scale dry season rice farming. Here, we saw what could become more commonplace in the future if more water is available during dry season. Water was being pumped from the stream to irrigate elevated fields of dry season rice seed. This was interesting to see, as we found out that the soil here absorbs water quite rapidly, and thus requires a large amount of water to remain irrigated - ie, placing large demands on the water supply during dry season.

Dry Season rice experiment at the crocodile farm: water pumping operating in the background. O Ta Bet is to the far right.

After having a rejuvenating glass of tea at the crocodile farm, the expedition continued downstream, finally making it to Bok Kron's daughter's house on the main road. Here, I got a glimpse into the rice harvesting process, and chatted with her family about the rice yields they were getting this year. Finally, our day completed with a homemade lunch and a de-briefing meeting where the FWUC and HT discussed plans for canal development and reservoir maintenance.

Prioritizing the canal construction with the FWUC

Even though 90% of the spoken conversation occurred in Khmer, I received translations from Chai, and it was good enough to get me through. I have to say, it was one of the most extraordinary days of my involvement on this project thus far.