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Lead Farmer

Voeun Sophea had been a rice farmer in Cambodia for more than two decades. But with drought and COVID-19 driving down market prices, Sophea felt anxious. With her future uncertain, the 39-year-old decided to take a risk, meeting with an iDE agronomist, who advised her to diversify her small farming business, encouraging her to try growing yellow flesh watermelons.

Because the melons are grown in the dry season, she changed things up, planting them in fallow rice paddies. The idea was to create and improve her livelihood opportunities. To improve efficiency and provide resilience to climate change, iDE also supported her plan to upgrade her farm by installing a drip irrigation system. She also planted in raised, flood-resistant beds and rolled out “plastic mulch” which covers the ground around the crops, retaining moisture and reducing weeds.

“I like to try new things,” says Sophea. Now as a designated “lead farmer” in her community, Sophea holds gatherings at her farm, showing her neighbors how to grow melons, supplementing their incomes, and adapting their farming practices to combat unpredictable and often severe weather events.

What's next for Sophea:

Sophea would like to increase the area she plants melons on and try growing other crops, such as cucumbers and chilis, further supplementing her income, which is largely based on seasonal rice farming.

The yellow flesh watermelons are particularly popular in Cambodia. Even though people are more familiar with tropical fruits such as pineapples and bananas, they also like the sweet taste of these green-skinned melons, which have distinctive black seeds neatly embedded throughout the bright, ridged flesh.

Sophea's Details

  • Cambodia
  • Agriculture
Entrepreneur Impact
  • Production
  • Local Distribution & Sales
  • Training & Capacity Building
  • Co-managing Resources
Ecosystem Impact
  • Local Economic Development
  • Food & Nutrition Security

Country Profile

  • 146/189

    Human Development Index (HDI) Rank

  • 18%

    Poverty Rate

  • 17 Million People


iDE was started as a radical idea that business is a solution to move people out of poverty. 40 years later, we still don't give things away. We create long term change by powering entrepreneurs to end poverty for their families and communities.

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