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Rice Is Hee’s Miracle Recipe

“Thank you for the Village Entrepreneur program and Australian family that helped my business improve and changed our living conditions.”

You’ve probably never stopped to contemplate a grain of rice any longer than it takes to pick up your lunchtime sushi roll. But for this graduate Village Entrepreneur it’s the miracle to sustainability, success and supporting her growing family.

It’s 4am. While most of us are still fast asleep, Hee Saneoun, a mother of two from Takeo Province, Cambodia, is already in the process of making her first batch of rice wine. She and her husband have run a small business producing Cambodian white rice wine as their main income source since 2010, a skill handed down from her parents when she was a child.

It’s hard work for Hee to keep the businesses running: as her husband heads off to work as a taxi driver, Hee’s early morning routine begins by pouring 30 litres of water into a stainless-steel container. Eight kg of rice is added, along with a number of other ingredients. “You need good quality rice to make quality rice wine,” Hee explained. The rice mixture ferments for two or three days, then is placed over an open flame with the lid securely in place to ensure no air gets in. “Air will affect the strength of the wine,” said Hee.

She can sell about five big 30-litre bottles of wine per week, earning about $50. To supplement that, Hee also keeps chickens, ducks and pigs … but the miracle really begins when you see how closely the two businesses work hand-in-hand.

She uses the left over rice from the winemaking process to feed her animals. She then stores the pigs’ waste in a closed hole with a small pipe that fuels her stove. The gases produced provide enough gas every month for her family to prepare their meals. Once the pigs’ waste no longer produces gas, the waste is then used as fertiliser for her banana tree and other crops.

As Hee’s business goes from strength to strength, her list of achievements also grows. So far her profits have:

– Built a sturdy fence (costing about $2000) around her house so she can raise chickens and ducks easily and safely. She now has about 170 altogether.
– Paid for extra classes in English and Maths for her daughters, plus bikes, uniforms, and other school materials.
– Opened new accounts for her girls, who now have about $120 each.
– Installed electricity and purchased a new TV,

Hee also contributes money to rice farming activities, and for community occasions like weddings and funerals. She also donates to the Red Cross and helps the poor pay for ceremonies.

Hee admits that business isn’t always plain sailingsometimes her wine gets charred and sour because of the changing weather, and pig prices are volatile.

But as a true Village Entrepreneur, Hee is always setting new goals. Next on her list is to support her children with computer skills and buy new computers for them, transform her timber house by building more secure concrete rooms and floor, and eventually to build a new house for her daughters.

“I remember that when I was young I wanted to go on with my study so I could become a teacher, “ said Hee. “But I couldn’t, because my mother had no money. Now I can say that for my daughters, I have money for them to study, I can support their study if they want to go to university,” she said with a big smile.

“Thank you for the Village Entrepreneur program and Australian family that helped my business improve and changed our living conditions”.

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