Organization Profile: Agricultural Development Denmark Asia (ADDA)


I ride in the passenger seat of ADDA’s company car. An hour outside Siem Reap we turn off the pavement and head down potholed dirt roads. Wooden stilt houses and flooded green rice paddies flank the sides. The villages become smaller and more remote. I think of how few travelers venture here (too busy touring the Angkor temples). Despite visible poverty, it’s refreshing to witness Cambodian lifestyle not centered on tourism.

I’m accompanied by three women: Visal, the gender specialist at ADDA, a native Cambodian working toward her master’s degree who wishes she could study abroad; Sophie, a Danish summer trainee/intern at ADDA; and Leng, also a Cambodian and employee of ADDA.

We arrive at Doun Diev village. Seventeen men and women wait for us under a thatched roof. Their smiles beam, masking the hardship of village life. They greet us and maintain eye contact, laughing and chatting with each other – all indications of an empowered group of women. Visal tells me when ADDA began working with this group in 2007 the women were reserved and timid. Three years later, they exude confidence.

This group is part of ADDA’s Integrated Women’s Empowerment Project Phase I (IWEP I). The objective of IWEP is to train villagers in agricultural science, provide access to micro-enterprise and form self-help groups. The groups are 80-85% women, simply because men didn’t attend meetings. In Cambodia, females run the household and males typically work away from home so this program was more conducive to female participation.

Between 2006-2009, IWEP I trained a total 6,236 people in groups of 10-25 villagers. Over a course of 3-4 months, villagers learned the most effective ways to grow vegetables and raise animals. ADDA teaches “safe” farming so they learn to make Bio pesticide, which uses tree bark and chili peppers instead of chemicals. Low literacy makes hands-on experience crucial to the villagers’ education. Groups access capital from local MFIs and provide microloans to members. The women borrow at 2% interest per month to buy seeds or livestock. They can borrow at 0% interest for emergency purposes such as sickness and severe accidents.

The women of Doun Diev openly admit their sense of empowerment since the program began. Initially, their husbands rejected their participation in IWEP. But their spouses’ attitudes changed as the women contributed to the family income and provided a steady food supply. The group has weekly gatherings and many women say their husbands now offer to watch the kids during these meetings.

They also discuss domestic abuse, a prevalent issue in Cambodian households. Women report increased respect from spouses and local authorities because they are now “productive” members of society. Also, the growth of agricultural projects produced more labor opportunities for their husbands. This meant less time for the men to get drunk together, translating to less abuse at home.

Isn’t it interesting that 3-4 months of skilled training can result in empowerment, stability, confidence, and a safer environment for village women?

ADDA is currently implementing the second phase of IWEP, which has added 430 people to their training program. With a present total of 102 village groups, they aim to reach 150 by 2013. ADDA is a Danish organization that works in Cambodia, Vietnam and Tanzania. IWEP is specific to Cambodia. You can find more information at or email to learn how you can support their work.

Thank you to Visal, Sofie, Leng and Pich Sophin at ADDA in Siem Reap for allowing me to shadow their work and taking the time to answer all my questions.


7 comments on “Organization Profile: Agricultural Development Denmark Asia (ADDA)

  1. O says:

    I feel like all of this that you’re researching and doing is reinforcing the points that were brought up in Half the Sky. I read the book and I think, Yeah i can see how women empowerment could help improve their society and decrease violence in the household but you’re actually EXPERIENCING all of this, and proving that it’s true! I’m kicking myself now for not taking this semester off and coming with you….Carmen is probably kicking herself too for not letting me go lol. Great photos, once again. I’m sending all of your blogs to the travel channel so we can finally get our own show.

    • batesla says:

      I am always thinking of Half the Sky! Seriously, I think Nick Kristof and Sheryll WuDunn are geniuses. It’s so interesting to see the issues and solutions in person, to see the depressed girls standing outside a massage parlor and then see these smiling women being helped by an organization. In the next 2 weeks I’ll be visiting an organization that rescues girls from sex-trafficking and then one that helps child drug addicts. They’ve asked for background checks so that I can interact with the girls and talk to them. I’m nervous about it, but well see how it goes! And you ARE here with me! Everyday. Obviously with the help of telepathy ;). I’m thinking if I ever start an NGO for women it’s going to be in Latin America and I want it to be comprehensive, so education, healthcare, financial help. Obviously you will be running the healthcare part for me :). xoxoxo Te extrano!!!

  2. Michael Bates says:

    Okay, you continue to amaze me. Two comments: I thought micro-finance groups provided bery low interest loans. 2% per month compounded is pretty good vig from where I sit. You obviously were payin’ attention to more than school while growin” up in Joisey —– Also, you might want to think about how radiant you look in the pics. Angelina J. may get wind of this and have you hunted down. “There’s room for only one Queen of International Salvation!” Just sayin’…

    • batesla says:

      hahaha ok…..

      First, microfinance interest rates are usually extremely high. It depends on the organization, the can range anywhere from 20-70% annually. Because the loans are so small, they have to charge higher interest rates to return any sort of profit. Microfinance institutions have to factor in four types of cost: operational/transaction, funding, default on loans, and growth/expansion. Since operational and transaction costs are usually fixed, MFIs actually lose money on the smaller loans and have to make their returns on somewhat larger loans. If they’re a nonprofit, they set the interest rate so that their return equals whatever growth or expansion they are forecasting. Ideally, organizations should try to find ways to cut costs so that they can lower interest rates.

      Second, those are your genetics at work! and Angelina better watch her back…;)

  3. Aunt Liz says:

    Hi Lauren ~

    Love the work you are doing in this Small Village. Amazing….all the different people involved!! Thank you for teaching us the workings of the foundations you are involved with. You are on your way ~ making many changes in peoples lives and communities. As well as making us think about what we can do to help and create awareness. I’m proud of you!
    I was thinking since your heart and soul is in South America have you ever researched the Ricky Martin Foundation. (Yes the Latino POP Star from Puerto Rico). I LOVE his Spainish Songs! He has started a Foundation to Protect children around the Globe. Condeming child exploitations, human trafficking and modern day slavery. Check it out when you have some time. As always ~ Be Well, Rest Well & Be Safe. Love Liz

  4. Carmen says:

    i love your alternating combo blogs…….. a ‘feel good’ touchy feely hopeful one, followed by an ‘in your face, make me cry, get mad and think’ one…

  5. Aunt Liz says:

    Yes Carmen I agree!

    Following along one day we are Free Spirits then next we are SLAMMED with the HARSH REALITIES.


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