Empowering Farmers: A Rewarding Journey Towards Agroecology Practices through Dei Meas

The Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) is committed to combating climate change and accelerating the transition to a climate-resilient, low-carbon sustainable mode of development. The Dei Meas initiative is currently making significant progress toward incentivizing smallholder farmers to transition toward agroecological practices and contribute to the efforts of the RGC, but ongoing efforts are needed to promote agroecological practices further.

Cambodia is on a Path to Carbon Neutrality

As the global population grows and consumption patterns change, food production is estimated to increase by 30% by 2030 and 50% by 2050. Climate change is also expected to impact crop yields in the long term. Therefore, increasing natural resource use efficiency is crucial for sustainable food production and environmental protection. This requires innovative and climate-resilient agricultural production systems and technologies that promote yield growth while protecting ecosystems.

The Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) is also committed to combating climate change and accelerating the transition to a climate-resilient, low-carbon sustainable mode of development. The RGC has supported global efforts against climate change by being a Party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) since 1996. Cambodia adopted and ratified the Paris Agreement by which the country submitted an ambitious Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), which showcased the country’s progress in climate policy and put forward mitigation targets and adaptation actions consistent with the national circumstances. Furthermore, Cambodia has also modelled a credible scenario for carbon neutrality by 2050 and has put forth a Long-Term Strategy for Carbon Neutrality (LTS4CN) that presents a policy scenario to realize a vision of a carbon-neutral and resilient society within the next 30 years. However, to realize these visions, there is an urgent need for the agriculture sector to move from conventional agricultural practices to agroecology.

Agroecology practices have shown immense potential in restoring degraded lands, optimizing nutrient availability, and combating climate change. They also positively impact food security, food sovereignty and farmers' livelihoods. Despite the benefits, smallholder farmers face several uncertainties when adopting these practices.

Dei Meas is Overcoming Barriers to Agroecology Adoption through Transition Financing

The Dei Meas (Golden Soil in Khmer Language) pilot aims to test applicable and institutionalized business models that incentivize farmers to transition sustainably toward agroecological practices. The initiative is based on three pillars:

  1. a practice-based reward system, providing incentives to smallholder farmers to access and implement agroecological practices,
  2. a precise MRV (Monitoring, Reporting, and Verification) system that tests different innovative technologies to quantify soil carbon sequestration (SOC), greenhouse gas emissions reduction, and the impacts on soil biodiversity as well as other co-benefits and,
  3. a financial mechanism for credit access and market establishment.
Map of upland and lowland areas of the Dei Meas Pilot in Battambong Province

In early 2022, Dei Meas, in partnership with other initiatives (Metkasekor, WAT4CAM project), held a series of demand-creation events designed to introduce three agricultural scenarios to local farmers. These scenarios encompassed i) the use of cover crops (single or mixed species) before or after the cash crop cycle for soil improvement or seed production, ii) the implementation of appropriate scale machinery with the use of the land leveler and No-Till Planter (NTP), and iii) diversification of the cropping system with one pulse crop cycle integrated (Mung bean, cowpea). In total, five demand creation events were conducted to promote the Dei Meas pilot program in Battambang. Three events were held in the villages of Kanghot irrigated perimeter, while the remaining two were conducted in the upland regions of Rattanak Mondoul district. As a result of these events, a total of 81 smallholder farmers from the lowlands and 26 farmers from the uplands registered for the pilot program.

The selection of these farmers was based on predetermined criteria that included prior implementation of sustainable practices, active participation in demand-creation events or training sessions, and ownership of plots within the selected villages in the uplands and inside the irrigated perimeter.

383 plots (352 hectares) underwent the first steps of transition towards agroecology. The Battambang Provincial Department of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries (PDAFF) organized a series of rewarding events for smallholder farmers in partnership with the Department of Agricultural Land Resources Management (DALRM/GDA), Conservation Agriculture Research for Development Centre (CARDEC) and Battambang Union of Agricultural Cooperatives (BUAC) to incentivize farmers to transition towards agroecology and raise awareness about the PDAFF's and CARDEC/DALRM’s role and support in this transition.

During the events, 107 farmers from Battambang were awarded according to the scenario implemented. The rewards were then sent to each farmer individually. USD$ 3,718 and USD$7,958, in the Uplands and Lowlands respectively, were awarded for changing their practices to align with the principles of agroecology and conservation agriculture.

The Dei Meas initiative is currently making significant progress toward incentivizing smallholder farmers to transition toward agroecological practices. However, ongoing efforts are needed to promote agroecological practices further. Conducting additional events in the intervention areas are being carried out to help register more farmers and reach the project's goal of transitioning 500 hectares of land under agroecological practices. Additionally, an agro-Economic assessment of the smallholder farmers' transition is being conducted to provide valuable insights into the livelihood and environmental impacts of their transition. Finally, the calibration of the several technologies of the MRV system for soil organic carbon and soil ecosystem services measurements is in progress to ensure accurate measurements. Overall, the Dei Meas initiative represents an ongoing step toward promoting agroecological practices and can create positive impacts for smallholder farmers and the environment.

Within the framework of the project "Agroecology and Safe Food System Transitions in South-East Asia and Fonds français pour l'environnement mondial" (ASSET/FFEM), the Department of Agricultural Land Resources Management (DALRM) is leading a pilot initiative, called Dei Meas (golden soil), supported by SmartAgro, CIRAD, and Swisscontact. Dei Meas is further supported and co-financed by Swisscontact’s Innovation for Sustainable Agriculture (ISA) project, Lien Foundation, and SEQANA.