A project that aims to promote livelihood and food nutrition in three provinces by adapting to agriculture climate solutions is slated to be rolled out in 2023.
The targeted provinces of Kampot, Kampong Thom and Takeo will benefit from the project by providing smart farming techniques, distribution agriculture input, the targeting training of 4000 producers with agriculture climate solutions, and food discount to underprivileged families.
On December 30, the project introduction workshop, “Improve food security, nutrition and livelihood for poor farming families through family food production programs”, was led by Helen Keller International-Cambodia in cooperation with Cambodian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARD) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), with other related stakeholders, including the United Nations, NGOs, representatives from other provinces, youths and journalists.
The ongoing war between Ukraine and Russia, in addition to the existing economic tensions caused by Covid-19, has disrupted trade and severely affected resources for agricultural production and the global energy market. These factors have negatively impacted Cambodia's food security and nutrition, especially for the rural underprivileged.
The July 2022 Food Price Survey conducted by the World Food Program in Cambodia shows that prices for basic food items have risen steadily since 2021. Expenditures on key foods, such as vegetables, eggs, fish, and cooking oil, rose between 17.4 percent and 42 percent in July 2022 compared to July 2021.
The consequences of rising nutrition prices have affected poor rural households, who are suffering from economic instability and have been forced to cut back on high-cost food and essential household expenses, such as health care. This has adversely affected the quality and diversity of their diet, and their health and their children’s.
Women from vulnerable families are expected to be the first to suffer the diversity of this diet when their financial and income conditions are strained.
The price of raw materials for agricultural production, such as fertilizers, have also risen significantly, making it difficult for local farmers to produce enough crops for household consumption and supply the market.
At the same time, the rise in domestic fuel prices in 2022 was due to increasing international crude oil prices as a result of the Russia-Ukraine war and high demand in the Chinese and European gas markets. In June, the Ministry of Commerce reported that the retail price of regular fuel and diesel in Cambodia increased by about 2.65 percent and 10.91 percent, respectively.
The increase in costs has negatively affected both producers and consumers, contributing to the increase in prices and directly affecting production costs. This has caused producers to reduce agricultural production.
With the support of BMZ, through GIZ-MUSEFO and in collaboration with CARD, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), Ministry of Health, IRRI and UNI4COOP, Helen Keller International Cambodia stakeholders addressed a number of challenges, with a particular focus on reducing financial stress and food insecurity and nutrition among poor families caused by rising food prices.
The project will support producers through existing farming communities, provide resources for agricultural production and technical assistance to strengthen farmers' ability to produce a variety of nutritious and safe foods for consumption and sale for household income.
The food produced will be sold at a discount to IDPoor 1 and IDPoor 2 households, as well as families with pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers or children under two-years-old.
The project will also train young people, between the ages of 18 and 30 to promote and educate through peer education programs. These young people will act as nutrition champions and spread the message of healthy eating and positive nutritional change in the target communities through social media and other media forums.
Hou Kreun, Director of Helen Keller International-Cambodia, stated that the purpose of the workshop is to officially introduce stakeholders to the project "Improving food security, nutrition and livelihood of poor farmers through family food production programs", especially focusing on the goals of the target population.
“The project focuses on providing techniques related to smart farming and changing nutritional attitudes, as well as providing a number of agricultural resources such as vegetable and rice varieties, organic fertilizers, vegetable gardens, nets, rice mills, agricultural information panels and solar panels,” he said.
What is Agricultural Climate Solutions (ACS) ?
ACS is a multi-stream program that will help to develop and implement farming practices to tackle climate change. Through agricultural practices, such as shelterbelts or cover crops, farmland can store carbon and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to Canada.ca.
The project plans to select 100 farming communities and 4,000 vegetable and rice producers in Takeo, Kampot and Kampong Thom provinces, which will benefit about four to five million consumers.
The food that will be produced through this project will be sold at a discount to farmers' families with IDPoor 1 and IDPoor 2, as well as families with pregnant women and families with children under two-years-old, Kreun added.
He mentioned, “The project will also collaborate with the National Nutrition Program to train young people on nutrition and health so that they can continue their education through peer-to-peer and community education programs.”
Moreover, the project will collaborate with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) to conduct research on farmers' use of rice mills in order to determine the benefits and risks of using this type of automatic rice mills.
Sok Silo, Secretary-General of the Council for Agricultural and Rural Development stated in the workshop that despite the remarkable progress in the country, inequality persists and 22% of the population still does not have access to a healthy diet.
“Improving food security and nutrition is a cross-sectoral work that requires good cooperation and careful participation by stakeholders in the necessary interventions and practical investments in a number of relevant sectors, especially agriculture, health and education, gender, economics and social protection,” he remarked.
Mak Soeun, Deputy Director General of the General Department of Agriculture, said the vision of the government is to modernize Cambodia's agricultural sector with a new approach to transform the sector from a stage of prosperous development to a new stage focused on intensive production that relies primarily on the use of new technologies, research and development of mechanization, as well as the promotion of productivity and diversification of other production, including animal husbandry and aquaculture.
“Focusing on the application of smart farming techniques in the context of climate change promotes the growth of food production among members of the farming community to meet food security, nutrition and livelihoods of poor families in the community,” he stated.
Sous Sokha, Project Leader of Helen Keller International-Cambodia, said Covid-19 and Russia-Ukraine war have negatively impacted Cambodia's food security, nutrition and economy, increase in food prices this year and disproportionately affecting poorer households.
“In order to solve that issue, coping strategies such as more than 50 percent of households use food related coping strategies and cutting less preferred foods, reducing portions, and consuming fewer meals,” he said.