Project Aims to Awaken Young Farmers

A project to empower youth to become involved in Cambodia's agricultural sector has been launched
Awakening Young Farmer project. Photo: supplied
Awakening Young Farmer project. Photo: supplied

A group of people launched the "Awakening Young Farmer" project to empower rural youth in Cambodia through capacity-building training after discovering a lack of local youth in the agricultural sector.

Awakening Young Farmer is a program that aims to empower rural youths in Cambodia to achieve decent work and sustained economic growth through the Youth Develop Youth Program, Agroecology Youth Program, and Young Agripreneur Program.

It is a one-year project that will recruit young people from five provinces: Kampong Speu, Kampong Chhnang, Kampong Cham, Pursat, and Battambang.

Suon Panha, project leader, said that the initial concept started from his dream of living in a farmhouse and his relationship with nature. As he wanted to connect with nature, he allowed himself to work in agriculture for a while.

Afterwards, he learned about regenerative agriculture. This is a farming method that strives to restore soil health and fertility while also safeguarding water resources and biodiversity, he explained.

Awakening Young Farmer project. Photo: supplied
Awakening Young Farmer project. Photo: supplied

When working in the agriculture sector, he had the opportunity to attend an event in the Philippines. He was triggered to include youth in agriculture after attending a discussion there regarding how to incorporate youth in agriculture.

“While working with the youth in the community last year, I was able to work directly with farmers and interview our youth. I discovered they face two problems such as livelihood and capacity building,” he said.

“They believe that working in agriculture will prevent them from growing. So, I decided to involve them in agriculture and start this project.”

In the program, the youth will take part in capacity-building training, exchange field trips, garden apprenticeships, and garden implementation, where they will be given seed grants to create five vegetable gardens in their local communities or Dassatek partners' land.

“We will recruit and train young people from the province. They will learn how to grow diverse vegetables,” he said. “After training, they will return to their community to create a diverse vegetable garden.”

He said that he kept in mind that he wanted the youth to shift their perspective from "I don't care" to "I care and want to learn more” when designing the training. In addition, he wants the youth to be bold enough to decide their own fate.

“If we can change this, it will be a success,” he said. “It can be difficult to measure, but this is what we want to teach them. Also, they need to think that this is their own life and they cannot rely on others’ assistance. They need to find the solution for themselves.”

He remarked that if they have these two criteria, they will be able to grow. While confidence will develop after participating in the program.

"They will have the opportunity to lead, so the confidence will come later as a result of how we expose them."

Currently, the initiative is being supported for one year by YSEALI Seeds for the Future Grant under the United States Department of State. However, he said that his team intends to transform this concept into a business after one year. "Therefore, we can generate income to sustain the operation as well as continue our mission."