An incubation project has been launched to promote entrepreneurship and the role of startups in providing climate resilient agriculture (CRA), agroecological products and services to smallholder farmers who are particularly vulnerable to climate change.
On August 11, Khmer Enterprise, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation – SDC, HEKS/EPER Cambodia, and CARITAS Switzerland launched the Khmer Agriculture for the Future (KAF) Incubator under the Nurture Project.
Smallholder farmers in Cambodia are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change and necessitate access to tailored innovation that can support them in their adaptation efforts and diversification of end-markets.
Therefore, Khmer Agriculture, through the Future Incubator, aims to foster market-based innovations that can enable smallholder farmers to access climate resilient agriculture products and services, as well as diversify access to markets in an effort to adapt and mitigate against the risks associated with climate change.
With an implementing duration of 16 months, the programme fills an important gap related to supporting entrepreneurs to develop and strengthen minimum viable products and services that can support smallholder farmers to become more climate resilient.
Impact Hub Phnom Penh is the implementing partner that will organize the incubation programme, bringing a wealth of experience in building the skills of entrepreneurs in Cambodia.
Chhieng Vanmunin, CEO of Khmer Enterprise, said the KAF Incubator was designed to help Cambodian farmers to come up with innovative solutions to improve cultivation processes in four provinces. These are Battambang, Banteay Meanchey, Oddar Meanchey, and Preah Vihear.
“The Royal Government of Cambodia has been working to develop the entrepreneurial ecosystem that responds to climate change while remaining competitive. It [KAF] consists of three phases, including pre-incubation, incubation, and post-program mentoring to ensure that startups receive support at different levels to develop their products or services for smallholder farmers,” he said.
Markus Buerli, Director of Cooperation Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), said with regard to climate change impact, Cambodia faces many challenges through the rise of flood and drought. He added that smallholder farmers are hit the most due to these consequences.
“There are technologies and services that exist, but they need to be made available to smallholder farmers and adapted to the realities in rural Cambodia. We are convinced that with this programme we can support startups and companies to extend their product range with modern, climate resilient and agroecological technologies and services, and successfully market them to smallholder farmers in Cambodia,” he mentioned.
He added that it is not only an important contribution to climate change adaptation but can also create a market environment that supports resilient livelihoods.
Julien Brewster, Regional Director Mekong at HEKS/EPER, said the programme will provide agricultural startups and companies with much-needed access to skills, knowledge, mentoring, networking, and financing opportunities.
“Despite significant growth in agricultural entrepreneurship over the past decade, startups and companies still face challenges expanding products and services, including climate resilient solutions such as seeds, solar pumps, and organic fertilizers to rural and remote areas,” he said.
He added that hopefully implementing the programme will help make smallholder farmers more resilient to the impacts of climate change and improve their livelihoods, while also creating rural jobs and entrepreneurship opportunities.
Melanie Mossard, CEO of Impact Hub Phnom Penh, said agriculture is one of the biggest drivers of the Cambodian economy. However, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.
Therefore, Impact Hub Phnom Penh, as a stakeholder, sees it as an opportunity to contribute to driving maximum positive impact through the development of promising ventures in this sector.
“As a daughter of a farmer myself, I have personally seen the importance of growing our food born out of the sweat of farmers who ensure that our society is fed daily. This is why my team, and I are very excited for the KAF Incubator as it will not only help the development of agriculture, but will also be handled in a sustainable way through the promotion of climate resilient and agroecological practices,” she said.
She added, “We are deeply excited to partner with HEKS/EPER, Swiss Development Contact, and Khmer Enterprise in developing this societally impactful ecosystem. Impact Hub Phnom Penh aims to bring world-class incubation to our brave startups through mentoring, practical training, and a community learning approach.”