The garden of Phath Kantannam and her husband, Mai Khong, is a slice of Eden in the hardscrabble hills that crowd the Ou River in northern Laos. Young trees do not yet bear fruit, but chili, eggplant, banana, and pineapple earn a modest income. Hedgerows of legumes control erosion on this sloping hectare and provide fodder for pigs.
Stream-fed ponds at the bottom of the vale nurture fish that the couple share with their children and grandchildren. Unlike biblical Eden, this garden demands long hours of labour. The couple can spare both land and labour for the garden because their other hectare of rice paddies produces the 2.5 tons of grain that their family of six consumes each year, removing the need to devote their sloping hectare to labour-intensive upland rice.
'Without rice, you can't do anything', is a maxim in northern Laos. Their rice needs secured, Phath Kantannam and Mai Khong can pursue a wealth of options. Improving the yield and reliability of their rice paddies was their first step out of poverty. Planting their hillside garden was their second.
About the Authors
Peter is a journalist and editorial consultant in Hong Kong and the founding editor of Rice Today magazine.
Bob Hill arrived in Thailand, his adopted home, in the early 1990s, intent on continuing a long career in film and television production. The transition from Australia and his native New Zealand had the unexpected effect of forcing him to depend upon what he claims was always his finest skill: writing. As a freelance writer and editor based in Chiang Mai, Thailand, he has mixed newspaper and magazine writing with editing scholarly works, much of it concerning the advances of the agricultural and natural sciences in Southeast Asia.
Number Of Pages: 250
Published: 1st September 2006
Publisher: Sid Harta Publishers
Country of Publication: AU
Dimensions (cm): 21.0 x 14.0