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Cambodia – Green pagoda grows organic

Kim Sarom THE PHNOM PENH POST Tue, April 18, 2023

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A Buddhist monk give vegetables and some money to local villagers living around the pagoda. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Cambodian Buddhists consider pagodas to be places of worship where they can offer food and donations to the monks who reside there.

However, the chief monk of Sirisakor Daun Sdeurng Pagoda in Senareach Udom commune of Preah Sdech district in Prey Veng province is now distributing organic vegetables at the site, which was recently ranked as the number one pagoda for environmental friendliness out of the 551 active in the country.

In the early mornings, if people travel on a red gravel road near Sirisakor Daun Sdeurng Pagoda in Snay Prem village they will hear the sound of birds crying from trees and the voices of chanting from the pagoda.

They will also see certain novice monks carrying water buckets to water the vegetable garden located on the pagoda compound.

The 47-year-old chief monk, Im Teang, told The Post that he has been managing the pagoda for over 15 years and currently it has 11 monks, including eight novice monks. Some days the monks wander the village collecting alms, but on other days they stay at the pagoda if people bring enough food to them.

The pagoda has nearly four hectares of land for the small community of monks and the compound has a beautiful environment with fresh air. The pagoda consists of a Pali study hall and a library for the monks and its grounds have big coconut trees, a banana plantation and a vegetable garden.

According to Teang, they have planted water spinach, cabbages, callaloo, eggplants, maize and many other kinds of vegetables. They also have fruit trees like bananas and jackfruit. The pagoda even has one hectare set aside for growing rice and its vegetables are picked and distributed to Buddhists near and far almost every day.

Teang said that the reason the pagoda distributed the vegetables to the villagers was because he wanted to form an alliance of love between the pagoda and the community to give them a clearer understanding that the monks and the Buddhist lay people don’t have to live apart, rather they must depend on one another and share their pains and joys.

“Furthermore, we wanted to create a beautiful environment like the pagoda we are living in has in order to create beauty and make this planet beautiful,” he stated.

He also said that every year during the rice-growing season he and the novice monks go to plough the land and plant seedlings on the one hectare set aside for it. Natural fertilizers such as cow dung, dead leaves and bat droppings are used to grow the rice and the vegetables.

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Buddhist monks at Sirisakor Daun Sdeurng Pagoda grow crops in the pagoda compound. PHOTO SUPPLIED

The pagoda stores rice seed varieties for distribution to the local people. After harvest, the villagers sell the rice in part and keep the other part, but if they run out of rice they ask him to grow more of it and share it.

He added that as for water sources, he and the monks dug out a reservoir pond to store water when it rains. The pond is adjacent to the pagoda. The pagoda compound has over 3,000 large trees on it.

Teang said that in 2022, a joint committee made up of several ministries – environment, tourism, and Cults and Religion – came to assess the pagoda in three stages and then selected Sirisakor Daun Sdeurng Pagoda as the most environmentally friendly pagoda in Cambodia.

Environment minister Say Samal handed the chief monk a letter of commendation at the ministry’s headquarters which he proudly displays at the pagoda.

“My pagoda passed the evaluation in December of 2022 for caring for natural resources, a beautiful environment, planting rare trees to provide birds with habitats. The committee focused on the conservation of natural resources and providing a beautiful environment for humans and animals to enjoy,” the chief monk stated.

Senareach Udom commune chief Khun Sao said that the commune has seven pagodas and this Sirisakor Daun Sdeurng Pagoda made its name the most famous out of the seven pagodas through its good management of resources and community outreach.

“He has shared what he grows there with the local villagers for a long time and not only that the pagoda is ranked as the number one environmentally friendly one,” he said.


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