Today the 5 female cows that have lived at the Provincial Teacher Training Center (PTTC) in Siem Reap since November 2010 were very happy to welcome a new male member to their family. Over the last years the female cows have been a great asset to the agricultural and environmental life skills activities at the PTTC.
Agriculture at the Teacher Training Center
Teacher trainers and VVOB, in addition to developing teaching manuals, teaching aids and workshops, have been working on implementing life skills activities with student teachers. This is part of the Science, Environmental and Agricultural Life Skills programme of VVOB (SEAL).
Following the curriculum student teachers during their education to become primary or secondary school teachers receive 15 lessons chicken raising, 15 lessons fish raising and 15 on organic vegetable gardening. Not only do they receive content knowledge, more importantly they have the opportunity to practice the necessary agricultural skills outside. The student teachers can then transfer their knowledge to pupils in their future schools. People in the communities will benefit from a more efficient way of chicken and fish raising, and can apply techniques for growing vegetables in a natural way.
An important part of organic vegetable gardening is to use compost, made of cow dung and organic waste. For this purpose it seemed a good idea for the PTTC to have a few cows walking around at the school grounds. They were bought with support from VVOB at the end of November 2010.
At that same time the National Biodigester Programme (NBP) which is a joint programme between the Cambodia Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) and the Netherlands Development Organisation (SNV) offered to support installing a biodigester. Installing a biodigester combined well with the already existing agriculture activities.
Student teachers help to collect the cow dung and put it in the biodigester. One biodigester with 4 m3 capacity can produce up to 1.44 m3 of biogas per day, which is enough to burn a single burner stove for 3.5 to 4 hours. The produced gas can replace 6 kg of firewood or 2 kg of charcoal for instance. Biogas is a sustainable and renewable source of energy because it is part of a closed ecological cycle.
The organic materials fed into the biodigester are used without being destroyed. The nutrients and some organic matter are still in the effluent and can be returned to the soil to improve the soil quality. Burning of biogas does not contribute to the greenhouse effect. All of these aspects contribute to the promotion of environmental awareness which is also a part of the VVOB Life Skills programme.
Although the female cows have led a happy life so far, still something was missing. Therefore one of the teacher trainers went out to find them a good partner. After some negotiations at a nearby farm finally Friday morning April 26, a beautiful bull arrived at the college.
Hopefully the bull and cows will be able to produce some offspring in the near future. This will provide profit for the PTTC. This ensures sustainability for the Teacher Training Center to be able to keep running the agricultural life skills activities on its own.