IFAD Visits Cambodia to Stimulate Inclusive Agricultural Growth

IFAD delegation meets key Cambodian officials to discuss investment in sustainable agricultural growth to elevate rural farmers out of poverty
Reehana Raza with PM Hun Sen. Photo: supplied
Reehana Raza with PM Hun Sen. Photo: supplied

A delegation from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) landed in Cambodia to meet with key officials, including Prime Minister Hun Sen, to discuss investments to promote inclusive and sustainable agricultural growth as part of the nation’s post-Covid recovery plan.

The delegation from the UN’s rural development agency was led by Jyotsna Puri, Associate Vice-President of the Strategy and Knowledge Department, and Reehana Raza, Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific.

According to a press release from IFAD, while Cambodia has seen a significant reduction in poverty during the last two decades, the poverty rate has climbed to 18 percent, from 10 percent in 2019, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In addition, the war in Ukraine has pushed up fuel and fertiliser costs, and has disrupted supply chains. As a result, rural families, especially small-scale farmers, are particularly vulnerable.

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Three-quarters of all of Cambodia’s 6.8 million farmers are categorised as small-scale farmers and struggle to achieve the scale and consistent quality of produce needed by export and domestic markets. Most supplement their incomes with non-farming labour.

“From our experience in Cambodia, we know that there is great potential for small-scale farmers to be resilient and contribute in measurably significant ways to economic growth. This will require, among other things, investments in infrastructure, building value chains, irrigation facilities, creating markets and ensuring access to financial services. Additionally, the private sector and farmers organisations must also play their role,” said Jyotsna.

“Also, with innovation and better and more use of mobile technology, rural families in Cambodia can build safer, healthier, more secure lives with improved livelihoods not just for themselves but for the rest of the population. As an IFI and as a UN organization, IFAD is well positioned to support the government in its planned growth trajectories, while ensuring no one is left behind.”

IFAD has aided Cambodia’s development since the late 1990s, moving from recovery and ensuring food security to building institutions to now focusing on the market economy. During the next decade, IFAD aims to contribute to a sustainable rural economy, ensuring that benefits reach the most marginalised communities.

“Today, Cambodia’s small-scale farmers face multiple challenges, including volatile food and fuel prices and the effects of climate change,” said Reehana. “Our goal is to enable small-scale farmers, and especially rural youth, to become more productive by improving their access to productive assets and skills, enabling them to earn increased, sustainable incomes while reduce their vulnerability to climate and other shocks.”

The delegation visited several projects in Kandal, Kampong Speu and Kampot provinces to see first-hand the results of IFAD’s support. Across the four projects currently financed by IFAD, participants reported improved productive capacity, better links to markets, more opportunities for youth, and progress towards an enabling environment for export and domestic markets.

At Khmer Green Charcoal in Phnom Penh, the delegation learnt how biochar briquettes from waste coconut husks and other waste biomass is helping 3,000 chicken farmers provide warmth in brooders to reduce chick mortality, yielding higher incomes. Farmers have also replaced charcoal with the briquettes as cooking fuel, leading to less deforestation and pollution – as well as better health.

The delegation also saw IFAD-supported small-scale infrastructure projects, such as collection points for farmers to sell produce to traders, irrigation projects and canal rehabilitation for disaster risk reduction, and better rural roads linking farms to markets.

In addition to meeting the Prime Minister, the delegation met Aun Pornmoniroth, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Finance; Lim Kean Hor, Minister of Water Resources and Meteorology; Dith Tina, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries; Vongsey Vissoth, Minister attached to the Prime Minister and Permanent Secretary of State; Ouk Rabun, Minister of Rural Development; and Pan Sorasak, Minister of Commerce, as well as key partners from the United Nations.

Since 1996, IFAD has helped finance 12 rural development programmes and projects in the country, at a total investment of $950.48 million, of which $309.08 million came from IFAD's own resources. These investments have benefited more than 1.56 million Cambodian households.