Building collaborative platforms: Experience of ISA

Bringing about change in an established system is not an easy task. It is even more difficult to bring about sustainable change, where the new systems operate smoothly even after the agent of change has abrogated. It is difficult, but not impossible. The key in establishing these sustainable structures is by imparting a strong sense of ownership over the change, having a capable public-private support, and setting up a proper market system that enable market actors to not only drive economic growth, but also to contribute to development policies. Therefore, one of the most effective ways to bring about sustainable change in the system is through public-private partnerships.

What is a Collaborative Platform?

The Asian Development Bank defines the term “public–private partnership” as a range of possible relationships among public and private entities in the context of infrastructure and other services. PPPs present a framework that—while engaging the private sector—­acknowledge and structure the role for government in ensuring that social obligations are met, and successful sector reforms and public investments achieved.

Therefore, in this context, a collaborative platform simply put is a form of public–private partnership, where relevant public, private, development partners and any other interested stakeholders can come together and collaborate in order to address specific issues in any given sector. Collaborative platforms can take shape of consortiums, associations, chapters etc. When designed well and implemented in a balanced regulatory environment, collaborative platforms can bring greater efficiency and sustainability to the provision of public services. The main aim of these collaborative platforms is always to ensure that the target group benefits.

In Cambodia, the Innovation for Sustainable Agriculture (ISA) project is supporting in building three collaborative platforms with the ministry, private sector, research institutions and other development partners so that they work together to contribute to a common vision of promoting Conservation Agriculture/Sustainable Intensifications (CA/SI) and Agroecology (AE) transition in the country.

Which stakeholders are important to ensure effective functioning of such platforms?

“Governments, acting in concert, will need to lead, but a truly effective global partnership will have to enlist as active partners all of society, including the business sector, which is the main driver of global economic growth and job creation, and also a major source of the technologies needed to address global problems.” - Progress report A/67/941 of the Open Working Group of the General Assembly on Sustainable Development Goals

The public partners in a PPP are government entities, including ministries, departments, municipalities, or state-owned enterprises. The private partners can be local or international and may include businesses or investors with technical or financial expertise relevant to the project. Increasingly, PPPs may also include nongovernment organizations (NGOs) and/or community-based organizations (CBOs) who represent stakeholders directly affected by the project. Effective PPPs recognize that the public and the private sectors each have certain advantages, relative to the other, in performing specific tasks. The government’s contribution to a PPP may take the form of capital for investment (available through tax revenue), a transfer of assets, or other commitments or in-kind contributions that support the partnership. The government also provides social responsibility, environmental awareness, local knowledge, and an ability to mobilize political support. The private sector’s role in the partnership is to make use of its expertise in commerce, management, operations, and innovation to run the business efficiently. The private partner may also contribute investment capital depending on the form of contract. The structure of the partnership should be designed to allocate risks to the partners who are best able to manage those risks and thus minimize costs while improving performance. 

Collaborative platforms supported by ISA

1. Conservation Agriculture and Sustainable Intensification Consortium (CASIC)

Conservation Agriculture and Sustainable Intensification Consortium (CASIC) in Cambodia was established through an official endorsement by Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ (MAFF) decision No. 201.SSR.KSK, dated 21 May 2020. CASIC is a national mechanism established to collaborate and coordinate with a network of organizations that are implementing activities related to Conservation Agriculture (CA) in Cambodia such as marketing, research, policy and service delivery etc. by promoting CA practices, creating demand for CA machinery and implements, increase the diversification of crops, the accessibility of cover crops, and the participation of the private sector to meet the needs. The mission of CASIC is to coordinate and support research for development; invest into knowledge management; create an enabling environment for policy dialogues and public-private partnerships; value creation; and explore market opportunities and enhance collaboration between various stakeholders in conservation agriculture, sustainable intensification, and agroecology.

CASIC aims to make CA more accessible to farmers through the market actors offering the services. The consortium consists of a group of organizations who have the incentives to come together and meet on a regular basis to discuss the promotion of CA practices in Cambodia through 4 main components – i) Knowledge Management, ii) Networking and Coordination, iii) Promotion, and iv) Research. CASIC aims to create a diverse network of organizations that have interest in CA, which can address the issue of ‘lack of awareness’ by promoting CA practices, creating demand for CA machinery and implements and bridging the gap between the private sector and the farmers. CASIC is NOT an implementing organization. It only serves as a platform for the members to create network with other organizations that are involved in CA and have access to the resources and repository of the Consortium in order to promote CA practices in Cambodia.

Through the experiences of the Department of Land Resources Management (DALRM) of the General Directorate of Agriculture (GDA) with the support of CIRAD, CE SAIN, Royal University of Agriculture, Sustainable Intensification Innovation Lab, Kansas State University and Mekong Inclusive Growth and Innovation Programme (MIGIP), machineries and cover crop that will be used in the CASI have been tested in Cambodia. The consortium presence will further help in attracting the private sector to expand their market in the CASI practices.

2. Agribusiness Machinery Association in Cambodia (AMAC) 

The Agribusiness Machinery Association in Cambodia (AMAC) is a collaborative platform and the first agricultural machinery association in Cambodia that focuses on bringing and introducing new agricultural technologies in the country. AMAC was established as one of the Regional Machinery Association in December 2020 through Swisscontact’s Mekong Inclusive Growth and Innovation Programme (MIGIP), the predecessor to ISA project. AMAC aims to bring together private companies, local manufacturers and importers, and local workshops that will passport agricultural machinery and technology from other countries into Cambodia through study tours, business events, and importantly agricultural technology exhibition at other countries. Plus, the association will be the common platform for all private companies to bring their business-related issues to discuss and voice their concerns to the government.

AMAC is established as a coordination body that provides coordination and advisory services. The association serves as platform that provides opportunities for its board members, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery and its private company members to have discussion on potential issues relating to mechanization, network and share information and plan and coordinate for smoother transition towards the Royal Government of Cambodia’s (RGC) vision to modernise the country’s agriculture towards sustainable intensification which “primarily depends on the application of techniques, new technologies, R&D, mechanisation, and increased capacity of irrigation to improve productivity.” AMAC aims to work with customs department to advocate for favourable policies that will expedite the transition towards Sustainable Intensification by introducing CA technologies in Cambodia and support small holder farmers via machinery companies by providing them with trainings, networking and advisory support.

ISA along with other stakeholders supported AMAC in the development of their official communication platform, its strategic plan, standard operating procedure and roadmap documents, along with the provision of support for the association to become an official member of Regional Council of Agricultural Machinery Associations in Asia and the Pacific’. However, the association is still in a nascent stage and further work needs to be done for it to be fully operational.

3. Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP) 

The Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP) is a global multi‐stakeholder alliance of over 100 institutional members from public, private, research, civil society and the financial sector.  The SRP initiative was originally co‐convened by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and GIZ and is now an independent member association.  SRP works with partners to transform the global rice sector by improving smallholder livelihoods, reducing the social, environmental and climate footprint of rice production; and by offering the global rice market an assured supply of sustainably produced rice.

The Sustainable Rice Platform aims to help smallholder farmers and protect the environment by building  a context-dependent modular standard for sustainable rice production and processing (including decision making tools and quantitative sustainability impact indicators), developing and promoting outreach models that enable large-scale adoption of best practices through supply chain mechanisms and public policy development; and establishing an international platform globally recognized for its role in promoting continuous improvement in sustainability in the rice sector with a broad participation from all actors throughout the value chain, the public sector and non-profit organizations. SRP’s aim is to offer the global rice supply chain a proven set of instruments to facilitate wide-scale adoption of sustainable best practices. Adoption of the SRP Standard is expected to lead to a 20% increase in yields and a 25% boost in farmer income by 2025.

In 2016 Wildlife Conservation Society Cambodia (WCS) launched an SRP trial in collaboration with Sansom Mlup Prey (SMP), Battambang Rice Investment Company (Brico), Mars Food and Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF). Farmers in the Prolay commune have benefited from a shortened, integrated, supply chain, linking them with international buyers. Seed rates were reduced by introduction of high-quality seeds. After 3 years, the 350 participating households produced 1,400MT of jasmine paddy in accordance with the SRP Standard. New partners are now joining, including IFAD and OXFAM, to address all aspects of sustainability and bring the project to scale.

Following that, the General Directorate of Agriculture (GDA), Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), CIRAD and Swisscontact have signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) to support establishment of a Cambodia National Chapter of the Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP) on 23rd June 2021. 

Role of ISA

ISA played a key role in the establishment of CASIC and AMAC, and through that experience is now working to support the setup of the SRP national chapter. ISA supported and is supporting the consortiums and associations in setting up the organizational structure, the standard operating procedure and coordination with the public and private sectors in order to identify the stakeholders in order to bring them all together to discuss on the idea and to develop a common vision and goal for the platforms.

  • ISA’s role as the secretariat of CASIC was integral as it provided a middle ground to coordinate and align the public and private sector. For CASIC, ISA supported and facilitated the membership of the Executive Board and Steering Committee by preparing the invitation of appointment to respective ministries to be member, supported in developing the operational documents including the workplan, budget plan, financial templates, report template etc. which resulted in smooth operation of the consortium. The project also supported in developing a 5-year roadmap by working actively with consultants, board members, partner and stakeholders and developed the CASIC monitoring system. The secretariat role also entailed day to day operational activities, and so the project supported in preparation and coordination of meetings, executive board meetings, field visits, exhibitions, workshops organization etc. The project also supported in the preparation of the meeting minutes and reports form the events and provided ad hoc support to the board of the platform as required.
  • ISA supported AMAC by structuring and organizing the role of the association. The project initially coordinated the meeting of AMAC with Department of Agriculture Engineering (DAEng), to discuss on objectives of the consortium. Apart from that the project also supports the board of AMAC to arrange meetings and coordinates with all stakeholders, supports in preparation of the workplan and the next steps for the association. ISA is also supporting AMAC in building a regional network through ReCAMA. Recently, ISA supported AMAC to work with various companies in Cambodia in developing a spare-parts booklet which will be submitted to Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and a request will be out out to the Ministry of Economy and Finance to relieve of tax duty for the agriculture spart-parts.
  • ISA is currently supporting SRP on developing common vision and objective statement that will feed into the 2-year roadmap of SRP and National Chapter in Cambodia. ISA will also support the establishment of an official National Working Group that will oversee the development of National Chapter in Cambodia. SRP in Cambodia will promote resource-use efficiency and climate change resilience in rice systems (both on-farm and throughout value chains) and pursues voluntary market transformation initiatives by developing sustainable production standards, indicators, incentive mechanisms, and outreach mechanisms to boost wide-scale adoption of sustainable best practices throughout rice value chains. SRP national chapter will offer trainings and other related services to its members. By companies and producers following the standards small holder farmers will get the necessary trainings and support to produce rice in a sustainable manner.

Building expertise in Collaborative Platform Development

Through the experiences in building up the three collaborative platforms: Conservation Agriculture and Sustainable Intensification Consortium (CASIC), Agribusiness Machinery Association in Cambodia (AMAC) and Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP) in Cambodia, ISA project plans to record its experiences and the processes in order to develop a comprehensive guideline on the procedures to develop similar Collaborative Platforms. These guidelines will be published and disseminated in the form of a handbook/ guidebook that will be available for all interested stakeholders. Through the experience of ISA, Swisscontact Cambodia anticipates the procedures on building Collaborative Platforms to become one of the branded products to come out of the project and serve as a valuable reference document for future projects that wish to develop similar platforms.

Innovation for Sustainable Agriculture
This project, ISA, is financed by Happel Foundation, Symphasis, and Marcuard Family Office, among other donors. As part of the Swisscontact Development Programme, it is co-financed by SDC (Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Federal Department of Foreign Affairs FDFA).