The Phon family – seedlings ready for planating in the rice paddies

It’s rice-planting time in the great Mekong flood plain, and the brilliant green fields around the village are filled with bent figures, mainly women, bedding in the seedlings. It’s a crucial time for people like Seng Phon to earn some money. In normal times a day’s labour in the paddy field would pay about 3,000 riel (40p). ‘A family of six eats at least two kilos of rice a day,’ says Han Sophan, a community leader. ‘Two years ago you could buy that much rice if you worked for a day, and have a little extra money. Now 3,000 riel buys only just half the rice needed to feed a normal family. So what can people do? Adults are going hungry so the children can eat.’