Floating Nutritional Gardens-Cambodia

Floating Nutritional Gardens-Cambodia

Moat Khlar, Cambodia

Global Roots, working with the Lake Clinic organization, helped kick off the first vegetable garden in this small floating village of the beautiful Tonle Sap Lake.

In an interview, Savann, TLC’s project lead, comments “This a very important project for these villagers, we have to do this because we see an increase in population and child disease, in cost of leaving and supplemental income, and a need for food education, so if we don’t do it, children will continue to be weak and sick, miss school, can’t help their parents, or their families would continue to borrow money from loan sharks or send their vulnerable children to work in cities.

The Tonle Sap lake is so beautiful, but also such a difficult place to live for people living on floating homes. Everyone here depends on the lake and its resources, they go fishing everyday and that’s essentially what they eat: fish or a fish paste called prohoc, and rice. In fact, 70% or the proteins feeding Cambodia comes from this lake thanks to these fishermen.


In a phenomenon unique in the world, the lake levels come up and down throughout the year driven by the flow of the Mekong river. In low season, the lake shrinks, revealing land for a few months that fisherman can use to farm vegetables. In high water season, that public land is covered by water so vegetable farming is no longer possible. Vegetables are brought from the towns around, but their cost is such that people can’t afford to eat them regularly. We also found that few fisherman know how to farm and cook vegetables, so an important portion of this program is to educate them for year-long self-sufficiency in getting a balanced diet.

The adoption and expansion strategy is simple: we will start by building one garden behind one school, this will bring together the school teachers, children, village chiefs and elders. While working on this project Global Roots will also train the people involved so they can replicate the building process. Children enjoy building and nurturing the garden, bringing the stories and shared harvest home. Teachers and the medical staff at the Lake Clinic will continue to educate children and parents on farming and eating the right food. Early adopters will start one floating garden behind their own house, enabling them to enjoy a balanced diet. Villagers can also choose to sell the excess vegetables for supplemental income. We aim to show this program to more fisherman who, ideally, will then follow and adopt a solution they see working well and bringing value at very little cost.

Building a floating garden is rather simple, and the cost is only the purchase of 2 large bamboo sticks and seeds. Water hyacinths is very abundant here as they grow free, and their procurement is very simple.

  • We build a frame with the bamboo sticks, tying the ends on each side with ropes.
  • We fill it with water hyacinths until it’s 1 meter thick (around 8 to 10 layers)
  • We beat the hyacinths to compact the structure and allow it to rot faster.
  • We let the structure decompose for 3 weeks, while keeping it wet
  • Planting and harvesting then as we would plant on land: we simply let vegetables grow naturally and water them as needed


As of December 17th, we completed the first stage and are are planning for the planting and harvests. TLC staff follow-up closely with the school master and the village chief to ensure there are no issues and learn from them as needed. We will then measure and adopt, to validate the value of the program. This project can then be replicated in the next village in need of nutrition and supplemental income.

Please stay tuned for the planting and the harvest!