Cambodia: Food Prices Weigh Heavy On 'Food Scholarship' Family
Published on 8 July 2011

Copyright: WFP/Polly Egerton

Srey Khouch Van and her father Chan tell their story of the struggle of ensuring enough food for their family and how WFP helps to ease the burden in the face of rising food prices

PHNOM PENH -- At the age of just 12, Srey Khouch has seven members of her family who depend on her.  The eldest of four, Khouch is the only one who goes to school, while her siblings stay at home to look after their housebound mother. Khouch’s mother lost her leg to a landmine when she herself was just a young girl.  Her father Chan is blind in one eye.  Up until Grade 4, Khouch’s attendance at school was erratic, and she often had to take time off to travel across the border to Thailand in search of work with her father.  When she reached Grade 4, Khouch was selected to participate in WFP’s Food Scholarship Programme, through which she receives a monthly food ration for her high attendance levels in class .

 Khouch  among her fellow classmates at their desks

While her father Chan still crosses the Thai border every day seeking work as a labourer in cassava planting and farming sugar cane, Khouch no longer travels with him. Her attendance in school enables her to support their family’s food needs. “If it wasn’t for the Food Scholarship my family would not have enough food,” she says. “I am happy to be in school and receive the rice ration”.  The monthly take-home ration of 15kg of rice is sufficient to feed her family for more than a week, a significant economic contribution to a food-insecure household.
Chan and  Khouch  standing with their bike and wfp food sack

Despite this, Khouch’s father Chan explains that rice prices in the local market have increased by more than 33 percent in the last few months.  “A kilo of rice used to cost 1500 riels, now it costs more than 2,000 riels (approx 50 US cents). This is making life more difficult than before,” he says. Wages have not increased at the same pace. With food prices rising, Chan worries every day about whether or not he will be able to feed his family for the entire month.“Although I am working as hard as I can to support my family, we can only afford to eat two meals of rice and wild forest leaves every day. If it wasn’t for the Food Scholarship our situation could be a lot worse,” he says. 

woman receiving bag of wfp food at distribution center

Background: Food prices in Cambodia are 20-30 percent higher in 2011 than before the 2008 food price crisis. Cambodia’s Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping (VAM) unit conducts a monthly food price and wage bulletin that monitors fluctuating prices in markets across Cambodia and how they affect the purchasing power of the poorest and most food-insecure.  The most recent Cambodia Food Price and Wage Bulletin indicated that food purchasing power had decreased over the last 12 months in both rural and urban areas as the increase in food prices outweighed the increase in unskilled wages.

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About the author

Polly Egerton

Programme Officer

Polly Egerton worked for WFP as a  Programme Officer based in Siem Reap, Cambodia.