Our Piece of Cambodia: Plans and Projects for the 430 acres of land

Rows and rows of tall and lush lacquer trees and smaller noni trees, Cambodian villagers thumbing leafy greens and other fresh vegetables in productive aquaponics set-ups, volunteers mingling amongst their bungalows and meeting halls, and tigers and other endangered creatures relaxing in an animal sanctuary: These are our visions for the 430 acres that were donated to Community First Initiatives by world-renown big cat trainer Thierry Le Portier . For reference, 430 acres is a little less than one square mile. Such a large amount of land opens up a world of possibilities for Community First.

The land is located in Kompong Thom Province, about an hour and a half south of Siem Reap. The land is quite diverse, with a variety of open fields, low-growing brush and trees, denser woods, and various water sources. Although the soil is not as nutrient-rich as the deep red soil sometimes seen in the countryside outside Siem Reap, we are looking into ways to improve the soil quality organically, including the use of Effective Microorganisms.

Our first priority is to map out the land with the help of cartographer Stéphanede Greef . The information we will receive through satellite imagery and elevation mapping will be very important in optimizing the allocation of the land to the various development components such as aquaponics and lacquer. Once we have analyzed our findings, we will begin to draw up a business plan upon which we can begin to set things in motion.

Once we gain more expertise and experience into building aquaponics, we will be setting up an Aquaponics School to teach farmers how to set up and maintain simple and effective aquaponics system. Since the villages outside Siem Reap often do not have a reliable electric grid, we will be focusing on systems that are easy to maintain, are built from locally-sourced parts, and use alternative energy, such as solar panels, to run the pumps, float switches, timers, etc. In Cambodia, it would be an enormous nutritional improvement having fresh, organic greens and fish protein since these are so scarce.

Aquaponics and lacquer trees make up the majority of our short-term focus. Aquaponics offers the promise of having a closed-loop efficient system that villagers can use to begin to expand their crop diversity, and nutritional intake. The lacquer plantation, and the refined lacquer we will produce, offers the promise of providing a stream of revenue to make our system self-sustaining.

In the long-term, we plan on building a volunteer community, where volunteers are hosted on the land in bungalows and can eat the freshly sourced food from our Aquaponics School. An extension of the Aquaponics School will be a Botanical Conservation program that will teach Conservation Agriculture and organic farming techniques to farmers and local youth alike. We also open the opportunity to Thierry Le Portier in helping start an animal sanctuary (we really hope he does!).


How you can help



  • $5 will fund a gardener’s seed stock
  • $10 will fund a gardener’s fish stock
  • $25 can plant a lacquer tree that, upon maturation, can provide means of living for a single family in the area around the lacquer tree plantation
  • $750 will help a family start an aquaponic farm which will help them fund medical expenses and reclaim their health


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Get Involved

  • In August, we will be busy mapping out the coordinates of the land and choosing potential grow sites. We will then begin researching the proper agricultural techniques needed for a lacquer tree plantation, and then begin planting seeds when preparations are complete and growing season begins.
  • If you have any knowledge of the use of aquaponics in developing countries, lacquer tree agriculture, organic farming techniques or are simply interested in tracking our progress and results, sign up for The Exchange, our nonprofit social networking platform, and share your insight or comments!