Kampot farmers try to tap into Asian birds’ nest boom

September 9, 2008 at 4:10 am Leave a comment

The Phnom Penh Post – September 08, 2008

Written by Khouth Sophakchakrya

As the price of swallows’ nests rises on the international market, govt is encouraging farmers to begin keeping the birds

 

 

HENG CHIVOAN

Swallows swoop around a concrete bunker at a makeshift swallow farm in Kampot province on Friday.

KAMPONG BAY – In this village on the outskirts of Kampot town, the delicate chirp of swallows nesting comes not from the actual winged creatures, but are instead piped through loudspeakers attached to the side of squat concrete bunkers.

The bizarre and somewhat unsightly constructions are part of a project that government officials hope will serve the dual purposes of commerce and conservation: the harvesting of swallows’ nests.

Across Asia, demand for swallows’ nest – used primarily is the manufacture of high-end alcoholic drinks – is rising, with one kilogram of the material fetching as much as US$4,000 to $6,000, according to Deputy Director of Forestry Administration Chea Samnang.

In a bid to boost the incomes of farmers, many of whom manage to just scrape by on subsistence harvests of rice, officials are encouraging them to pursue swallows’ nests on a commercial basis.

“Swallow farming not only helps us to protect and preserve the swallow population in Cambodia, it will also help us to increase the income of rural farmers,” Chea Samnang said Sunday, adding that most of the nests from Cambodia are exported to Thailand, Malaysia and China.

The government has so far targeted farmers in Koh Kong and Kampot provinces, as well as Sihanoukville, Chea Samang said.
Koh Kong provincial governor, Yuth Phouthang, a swallow farmer himself, said that in 2005 he invested $100,000 in land and on the construction of swallow shelters to attract the birds.

Over the first year of operations, he harvested around two kilograms of nest and has since expanded, building shelters in Sihanoukville and Kampot.

“Now I can collect five kilograms of swallow nest [at one time], and I can earn more than $100,000 a year,” Yuth Phouthang said. “I have only spent money on creating the swallows’ shelter, but I do not pay for swallows’ food,” he added.


“…People say swallows’ nest is good for the lungs and skin diseases.”


He said that he hopes to increase his profits, taking advantage of the swallows’ thrice-yearly nesting habits.

It takes around 100 nests to make a kilogram of salable birds nest product, and the number of nests the swallows  can produce depends on how much food they have access to.
 
Koy Luon, 72, a villager in Kampong Bay’s Sovann Sakor village, said swallows make their nest from tiny tree branches, dry grass and mud.

The nests themselves are not edible, but if brewed into a drink, the mix is purported to have healing properties.

 
“People say swallows’ nest is good for the lungs and for various skin diseases. It is beneficial to the elderly,” he said, adding that he collected about 100 swallows’ nests over the first six months of this year.

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