$3m Project Aims to Elevate Mondulkiri Farmers’ Livelihoods

A $3 million project is being rolled out in Mondulkiri with the aim of improving income, food security and nutrition of more than 1,200 smallholder farmers
Tourists visit Phnom Dos Kramom in Mondulkiri province on November 14, 2021. Picture: Sam
Tourists visit Phnom Dos Kramom in Mondulkiri province on November 14, 2021. Picture: Sam

A $3 million project led by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and Cambodian Agriculture Cooperative Corporation (CACC) aims to improve the income, food security and nutrition of more than 1,200 smallholder farmers and their extended families in Mondulkiri.

Funded by the Global Agriculture and Food Security Programme and CACC – respectively $1.79 million and US$1.1 million – the project aims to strengthen the resilience and livelihoods of smallholder farmers living in Koh Nhek through organic agriculture and access to markets.

Using a behavior change campaign, the project also aims to improve nutrition and gender equity by generating demand for healthy diets and tackling harmful social norms.

“To achieve the project’s goal, WFP will support CACC to build an inclusive and integrated organic food value chain and incentivize smallholder farmers to switch to the organic agriculture model,” said Claire Conan, WFP representative in Cambodia.

She added that the public-private-producer partnership approach will ensure that women farmers and indigenous population are included in the profitable chains, leverage private investment, strengthen policy dialogue and secure the necessary technology and knowledge for more environmentally sound, socially equitable and economically viable development.

Organic agriculture is an environmentally friendly farming approach that uses only natural fertilizers, pesticides and climate-smart practices to help improve soil quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Mondulkiri is home to rich red soil that is ideal to grow high quality organic food to supply the growing market demands that was valued at more than $251 billion globally in 2022.

“The prices of organic food are higher and more stable than traditional commodities, creating opportunities for higher profit margins and steadier sources of income,” said Kunthy Kann, CACC managing director.

He noted that Mondulkiri’s smallholder farmers tend to mainly cultivate rice, employing largely traditional rotation farming practices. This makes yields vulnerable to climatic and other types of shocks.

“Our goal is to increase the participating farmers’ incomes by up to 20 percent, compared to typical farm gate returns,” Kann added, illustrating that CACC will facilitate market linkages to ensure this, and the farmers will be able to use the premiums earned to better safeguard against future shocks and stresses.

“Increased income will play an important role in facilitating better nutrition as households can access more diverse and healthy foods, siding away the negative impacts of shocks-induced damages on their household nutrition,” said Conan.

She added that the links between livelihoods and nutrition are of particular significance given the high poverty and malnutrition levels in the area.

“To tackle the issues, the project will deploy social behavior change communication to influence food behaviors and gender equality in the households,” said Conan.

She also believes that to engage women in the project is a key because in Cambodia, women play a lead role in food and cooking at home and make up more than half of the country’s agricultural labor force despite facing many difficulties in terms of access to land, extension services, financial services, market and technology.