We’re looking for that elusive thing – The Right People – two or three amazing people who would like to give up their current lives and live in Cambodia to work with Janine and Andrew to set up a business that will run as a social enterprise. If you are at all interested in this, we ask that you read this document in it’s entirety ….. and then read it again and if you’re still interested, get in touch – contact details at the end.
PS. It could be more than two people …..read our blog on how flexible this could be…
The situation today.
Kep Gardens (KG) has a large piece of land and currently about half of that land has no real purpose and is under used.
There is no one at KG who has the time, expertise or inclination to manage and use this land.
KG does not, at present have a sustainable income generating plan.
Cambodia is a developing country and is open to opportunity.
Grow organic produce to meet the demands of the developing tourist industry and the growing affluent sections of Cambodian society.
Develop a business plan for a period of 5/10 years that would create income generation from the land.
Find the right people, ideally a couple, to develop and manage this project.
Grow enough food to allow KG to achieve a high level of self sufficiency in food eg.:
eggs and dairy
fish and maybe meat
(full self sufficiency is not a practical aim here)
Raise the profile of small scale agriculture as a business to promote local economic development.
It’s obviously vital to this plan that KG finds the right people. This project could work with 1 person but two would be an ideal, preferably a couple as the two people will be sharing a house and need to work very closely together. These people need to be willing and happy to live in a lovely tropical place where it’s never cold. It would be an ideal situation to bring up children. They need to be able bodied, fit and healthy and willing to do physical work in the heat.
We would be looking for a deep understanding of sustainable land use and preferably some real experience of small scale farming. These people also need to be able to run a business – that’s why 2 is ideal. Whatever is produced has to be preserved both for selling and for use in KG – this is almost a full time job in itself. The selling aspect of the project also requires a person with a good presence and the ability to communicate with customers.
We would also be looking for a long term commitment to this project. The business plan would be for an initial period of 5 years with a draft extension for the next 5 years. Obviously the expectation is that this will last as long as KG lasts. We need people with vision.
Using the land.
The climate in Cambodia is hot, very hot or hot and wet. The soil in the area has a lot of clay but it’s been fallow for a while so it’s just waiting for manure and a mulch. It should be possible to grow enough fruit and vegetables for the daily use of everyone living at KG. This might take about a year to set up but the long growing season is a huge advantage. By screening beds from the rain, continuous crops can be grown.
Income Generation from the land
Cambodia is developing and this is the time to get a range of quality organic products established. In the Kep area there are a number of hotels and restaurants that promote themselves as ‘quality’ aiming for a high end market. These are potential customers who would be delighted to use the word ‘organic’ in their marketing. Phnom Penh is also becoming more ‘gentrified’ in it’s development and there’s a growing number of outlets selling organic products. This is an interesting recent article from the BBC about Phnom Phen
Although we’re obviously looking for people with vision and ideas, we have a couple of ideas to get things started. The enterprise will be based around three areas of production:
- providing fresh, quality, organic vegetables to local restaurants and hotels
- preserving vegetables and fruit to make a new unique product that will also have a longer shelf life
- developing the fish farm.
Focusing on the first two, we suggest the following to begin with:
Sun dried tomatoes.
- easy to grow
- easy to dry
- once they’re dried, they have a very long shelf life – long distance transport is not an issue
- they taste great and they’re very popular in any kind of European cooking
- there are a number of Italian restaurants in Phnom Penh who probably have to import their sun dried tomatoes
- a very good income return for a product that is not very labour intensive.
- again an easy crop to grow
- smoking the crop will extend it’s shelf life
- and it produces a new product
Fresh and dried herbs would be another potential product for local restaurants. Again, they’re easy to grow and to dry.
Using herbs to flavour oils and vinegars and then present them in cute little bottles with a KG label on them.
The same can also be done with jams, pickles and chutnies. These three are fairly labour intensive products but there’s potential as future outsourcing to local women when they’ve been trained.
‘Organic ‘is the key word here of course.
The crops and products mentioned here are easy to grow and cheap to produce in order to establish a market. The possibilities after that are limitless so that means that we are also looking for people with ideas and vision.
Other stuff and fish.
There would be at least 4 people living permanently on site plus there are groups and individual volunteers staying throughout the year. It would greatly increase the sustainability of KG if the majority of the food could be grown on their land.
With careful management, the land could produce food all year round – the main considerations being the very rainy season when plants need to be protected and not get washed away and also the very dry season. The site does have a borehole so potentially, there is water all year.
Animals are a vital part of sustainable farming. They eat the waste products, provide manure, help to manage the land and of course they provide food. There appears to be a lot of unused ground in the vicinity of KG – it may be possible to graze animals there. There are pros and cons with all animals and this would be a long separate conversation when we find the right people.
And then of course there is the fruit – endless amounts of tropical fruit! Most people who are into growing would be delighted to have the opportunity to grow mangoes, papayas and other tropical things that do not grow in Europe or North America. These can also be preserved and dried.
A Fish Farm.
There is a large pond/small lake that Andrew and Janine have established with the intention of creating a fish farm. This idea hasn’t been developed to date mainly because of their time. It has enormous potential.
People in Cambodia eat a lot of fish so initially there would be a market for fresh fish, however, there is a lot of competition here as fishing is a key source of income for local people. A possibility would be preserving the fish by smoking them. This has a number of benefits:
- it’s a new product that tastes very different to fresh fish
- it’s an attractive product for high end restaurants and hotels
- it greatly extends the shelf life of the fish
- it makes transportation easier
Developing local potential.
The idea of an apprenticeship scheme is already established at KG and this could be extended to food production and product development. There is potential to create a cooperative of local growers who maybe focus on only one crop. The preserving side of food production could be outsourced to trained local women – for example they could make pickles or chutnies to an exact recipe using KG fruit and vegetables.
Apprentices would also solve the labour issue. Land work, especially organic growing is very labour intensive. We do not imagine that 2 people would be able to physically manage this entire project! Teamwork and training will support that.
Rural people in Cambodia actually attach a low value to agriculture. By creating a successful business model at KG, people may begin to view their land in a more positive way. Depopulation is most usually a fact of development – young people see no potential in working on the land so they leave for life in the big city. This project could, in the long term, help to reverse that trend.
These aspects of the project would come at a later stage – we don’t expect you to do everything all at once! We suggest that the project is supported by working volunteers for the first couple of years, eg through Helpx
KG basically doesn’t have any which is why we are developing this plan. Let’s look at investment and profit distribution.
This will be a social enterprise and its aim is to financially support the people involved and the activities of the school. It’s our expectation that the distribution of profit would be:
- 25% to support the school
- 25% to provide an income for the Andrew and Janine
- 25% to provide an income for the Project Managers
- 25% for future investment and to support the apprenticeship scheme
Janine and Andrew will provide basic housing for the Project Managers – Andrew and his apprentices will build something. This could be added to as the business expands. They will also obviously provide the land.
We guess that this idea will need a financial investment from the Project Managers of $2000. This serves two purposes:
- it kick starts the business eg buying tools and equipment, packaging and preservation equipment etc and marketing
- it shows us that the people who are applying are serious and are willing to invest in their own future
Also, being very realistic, this business is not likely to see a significant profit for a couple of years so the Project Managers will need to be able to support themselves in that time. It’s very cheap to live in Cambodia and most of the food will be grown on site so while the business is growing, you wont starve and you certainly won’t be cold!
Time scale and practicalities.
We’ve set aside the rest of 2016 to finding the right people. We recognise that it can take time to pack up your life in one country and move to another and Andrew hasn’t built the house yet! We would hope that by April or May 2017, our new Project Managers will be living in Kep although this will be the start of the rainy season which could limit the beginning of land work. The timescale on this is flexible but we would really hope that by the end of 2017, everybody is in place, things are growing and we have established the beginning of our customer base.
Cambodia is a surprisingly easy country for foreigners to live long term. We don’t foresee problems with residency visas and we would support you through the processes.