The Mekong Inclusive Growth and Innovation Programme (MIGIP) and Conservation Agriculture Service with a Fee (CASF) have joined hands to promote Conservation Agriculture (CA). MIGIP would support in the private sector engagement, whereas CASF would work on the technical aspects of CA. 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 polyculture, crop rotation, cover crops, and no-tillage.
Even though commercialisation of appropriate machinery is one of the catalysts to ensure the momentum of CA practices adoption, the disconnect between supply and demand of this technology is apparent. While the agriculture machinery suppliers find reluctance in investing in such machinery, Cambodia smallholder farmers are not aware of the long-term benefits of no-tillage. This deficiency creates a loop where the needs for external interventions are required.
Seeing the need for intervention, Swisscontact supported Larano Workshop, a local importer and manufacturer workshop, to import seven no-till planters from Brazil for commercial purposes. The workshop is now sourcing and promoting the machinery to the farmers in Battambang with elaborate support of Conservation Agriculture Services Center (CASC)/General Directorate of Agriculture, Center of Excellence on Sustainable Agricultural Intensification and Nutrition (CE SAIN) and CIRAD.
Mr. Ou Chhoeum Larano, the owner of Larano Workshop, decided to import seven no-till planters, two for rice, four maize, and one cassava, which arrived in Cambodia in May. “I decided to import [the planters] because I saw the future demand of farmers for the Brazilian no-till planters. The decision was also based on the contribution of NGOs such as Swisscontact and CIRAD who supported us in capacity building, finance, and promotional activities of the new planters to farmers,” Said Mr. Larano.
Cambodia agriculture landscape also faces a challenge of labour force shift from agriculture to other sectors. The decrease in the share of employment in the agricultural sector in total employment went from about 72.1% in 1993 to about 36.4% in 2016.
During a regional training on appropriate scale mechanisation, HE Dr. Ngin Chhay, General Director of General Directorate of Agriculture, emphasized the importance of innovative mechanisation technologies in response to different challenges. “Current farming is facing diverse challenges, due to the shifting of the labour force from agriculture to other sectors when climate change also has a strong impact on farming efficiency and profitability; thus, the development of appropriate scale mechanisation is a key element to address these challenges.”
Conservation agriculture practices need to be widely adopted by smallholder farmers so that they can improve soil fertility, conserve water usage, increase yield, and incomes. While ensuring profitability for smallholder farmers on a micro level, the adoption of sustainable agriculture practices also answers to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals including SDG 1, no poverty; SDG 2, zero hunger; SDG 13, climate change and SDG 15, life on land.
“The scaling-up of technologies is only possible if there is an incentive for the actors involved in the process. For farmers to practice no till planting, it is important that no-till planting services reach the farmers. The business model to reach farmers in Cambodia is through tractor service providers. Swisscontact works with importers of tractors and no-till planters and help them promote to the service providers,” said Rajiv Pradhan, MIGIP Programme Manager.
To further increase the sale of the planter, Swisscontact is also implementing its 4S Technology Market Segmentation, a technology marketing model that helps the private sector target the right farmers with the right products. So far, the model being promote to five private partners, including Larano workshop and adopted by 2 of them. As a result, one of the newly introduced no-till planters was sold to a service provider in Battambang province in June, when two other potential purchases are underway.
With this initial success, Larano plans to expand his conservation agriculture machinery business and mainstream the adoption of these planters among Cambodian farmers. “Now my first plan is to visit Brazil to see the machinery manufacturing and meet the manufacturers, distributors or retailers of the Brazilian no-till planter and to build a network for future imports without the external supports. At the same time, I hope related stakeholders can continue to support on capacity building of my staffs, promotional activities using 4S model and finance for at least another year,” said Mr. Larano.
Conservation Agriculture Service with a Fee (CASF) empowers private entrepreneurs, agricultural machinery manufacturers and importers, agribusiness retailers and service providers, smallholder farmers, and public institutions to shift from conventional soil degrading agricultural production systems to profitable soil and ecosystem enhancing Conservation Agricultural Production Systems (CAPS).