In April 1975 Ngak Chhay Heng and his family loaded their car with their personal possessions, pushed it 20 kilometres from Phnom Penh, discarded anything that differentiated them from peasant farmers, and disappeared under the dark shadow of the Khmer Rouge for three years, eight months and 20 days.
For twelve of her 21 years Chan Phaloeun lived with war and tyranny. At the end of the Khmer Rouge period she was too ill to walk and had been expected to die. Her brain was so numb that if she tried to count to ten she could not continue past three. Yet in the next few years she graduated from university in Russia and became a key research leader helping to restore rice production in Cambodia. This book is about people and their work and challenges in rescuing Cambodia from famine. It is about men, women and children who lived under the shadows of war and the terrible time of the Khmer Rouge and were desperately weak from starvation when it ended. People like Ngak Chhay Heng and Chan Phaloeun who survived to be part of the restoration of food production when friends or families left hardly a trace of their existence. It is about expatriates like Harry Nesbitt who dedicated a substantial part of their working lives to helping the people of Cambodia produce the food they needed to fill their stomachs and become self-sufficient. It is also about how people from many different organisations saw the benefits of collaboration and worked for a common goal and how people in positions of authority had the wisdom to support their efforts.