For all the dissimilarities, botched analogies, and tortured comparisons, there has been one connecting thread in Washington’s foreign wars of the last half century that, in recent years at least, Americans have seldom found of the slightest interest: misery for local nationals. Civilian suffering is, in fact, the defining characteristic of modern war in general, even if only rarely discussed in the halls of power or the mainstream media.
Nhan and Chan Nguyen grow melons, peanuts, casava, and turnips here, on a patch of land off a dirt path shooting off of a dirt road that turns off from another dirt road.
For years, the couple used local watermelon seeds. But it’s become harder to make money on those plants in recent years. They were prone to disease, and didn’t handle screwy rain patterns very well. It used to rain for about six months each year, but now the rains can come for up to nine months out of the year. “In the past the weather was more regular, so we could use the old seeds, no problem,” said Nhan. But they realized that growing melons was just getting more difficult. “We were worried and we thought about it a lot. We thought we would have to do something different.”
Through a grant from Oxfam, the Nguyens and nine other families were able to start planting a different variety of watermelon instead, a more resilient variety that wouldn’t suffer as much in unfavorable weather. And they were able to buy black plastic to cover the rows of seeds after planting, which helps lock water and heat in the sandy soil to coax the vines out of the ground. The project is more about adopting better agricultural methods, something that’s needed with or without climate change. But the effect Oxfam is hoping to get from the project is making farmers more resilient to whatever nature might bring them.