Farmer Cooperatives Introduced to Conservation Agriculture

Sustainable agriculture
Curious looks on the faces of the members of Cambodia farmer Cooperatives could be observed as they are introduced to the practices of Conservation Agriculture (CA). This observation was made during an awareness raising workshop on CA practices in Cambodia on December 20, 2019. This reaction is quite understandable as most of the arable land in Cambodia is still cultivated through traditional farming methods.

Conservation Agriculture (CA) is a farming system that contributes to the prevention of arable land losses and regeneration of degraded lands through the adoption of approaches such as no-tillage, cover crops, and crop diversification.

This workshop was co-organised by Department of Agriculture Engineering and Swisscontact. The objectives were to promote the awareness of CA practices and  introduce private companies that produce agricultural inputs including cover crop seeds and manufacture agricultural no-till machineries.  Over 60 representatives of  farmer cooperatives and provincial agricultural offices attended the event.

During the workshop, Mr. Ngin Kosal, Director of Department of Agricultural Engineering, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) emphasised the problem regarding soil health degradation worldwide and in Cambodia. He also highlighted how Conservation Agriculture was a key to solve this problem. He further mentioned  “…more and more farmers are concerned about production yield decrease but little do they know that their conventional agriculture practices are degrading their soil’s health. We need to recover the depleted soil through Conservation Agriculture practices because if we do not take care of the soil health now, the famers will face even more severe problems in the future…

Mr. Kosal added that the integration of agricultural mechanisation into the conservation agriculture production system was necessary for modern farming in Cambodia as labour shortage in agriculture was becoming a threat for the sector’s growth.

As the part of the presentation, experts from Conservation Agriculture Service Centre (CASC) under the Department of Agricultural Land Resources Management (DALRM) demonstrated the advantages of Conservation Agriculture practices by bringing soil samples from different locations of Cambodia.

Learn more about Swisscontact activities in Cambodia by following its Facebook page: Swisscontact Cambodia.

Emerging Partnerships in Promoting Conservation Agriculture in Cambodia

With other stakeholders from public, private organisations and development partners, Swisscontact aims at creating an enabling environment that move entrepreneurs, farmers, and private service providers to shift investment from conventional tillage to Conservation Agriculture Production Systems (CAPS) through the Conservation Agriculture Service with a Fee (CASF) project in collaboration with the Mekong Inclusive Growth and Innovation Programme (MIGIP).

In Cambodia, Swisscontact works on Conservation Agriculture in collaboration with General Directorate of Agriculture (GDA), Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), Centre of Excellence on Sustainable Agricultural Intensification and Nutrition (CE SAIN), Royal University of Agriculture (RUA), Kansas State University’s Innovation Lab for Sustainable Intensification (SIIL) and Cirad. The work that DALRM has initiated some 15 years back with the support of Cirad has paved way to the  commercialisation pathway.

The barriers that limit the practices of Conservation Agriculture in Cambodia are not the lack of technical knowledge. Farmers currently do not have adequate access to appropriate machineries for Conservation Agriculture practices because the demand for such technology is still relatively low compared to its conventional tillage machinery counterpart.

Larano Manufacturing company, a local importer and manufacturer, is among the first to commercialise Conservation Agriculture mechanisation in Cambodia. In early 2019, .  The company is now sourcing and promoting the machinery to the farmers in Battambang.

Mr. Ou Chhoeum Larano, the owner of Larano Manufacturing company, said that he saw a potential in scaling up his business around Conservation Agriculture machinery after his involvement with Swisscontact and partners in different outreach activities. Swisscontact also introduced the  to Larano. Larano is now also a founding board member of Cambodia Entrepreneurs of Agriculture Machinery and Technology Association (CEAMTA), which was initiated by Department of Agricultural Engineering and supported by Swisscontact to identify and promote new machineries and technology that will provide benefits to the Cambodian farming system.

In the same event, Mr. So Phanna, a farmer from Preah Vihear province, also showed interest in planting cover crop in his rice field after talking with SmartAgro, a company specialised in supplying a large variety of staple, cover crop seeds and organic inputs. SmatAgro and Swisscontact have entered into a partnership to commercialise cover crop seeds in Cambodia.