SIEM REAP (Khmer Times) – In the past, much of the produce sold in Siem Reap’s large indoor markets was imported from foreign countries. Now local initiatives are trying to change that.
Two months ago, Siem Reap hosted the Second National Forum on Regulation, Use and Trade of Biocontrol Agents in Cambodian Agriculture.
Biocontrol Agents are living organisms used to control pests and plant diseases using natural mechanisms. These often are used as alternatives to chemical pesticides and herbicides.
Over two days, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries met with Cambodia HARVEST, a local food security program run by USAID along with local businesses and small-scale farmers to promote environmentally friendly agriculture production in Cambodia.
Farm Field Trip for Fungicide
Participants visited Siem Reap farms that have replaced chemical pesticides with organic pesticides. One such natural agent is Trichoderma, a fungus that occurs naturally in soil and acts as an organic fertilizer and fungicide.
For the past decade, Trichoderma has been tested by Dr. Kean Sophea, Deputy Director of the General Directorate of Agriculture in the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
At the forum, Dr. Sophea said compared with farms that use chemical pesticides crops treated with Trichoderma showed about 30 percent higher yields.
According to Asean’s Agrifood website, durian trees treated with Trichoderma not only produce more fruit than those treated with synthetic pesticides, but their fruits also mature earlier.
Fresh From Farm
After moving to Siem Reap in 2000, Rasy Sim found that about 80 percent of wholesale fresh food supplied to local hotels and restaurants was imported.
Seeing an opportunity to supply local farm produce that meets international hygiene standards, Mr. Sim founded the Fresh From Farm Association.
His two-hectare farm in Puok District, 15 km northwest of the city center, supplies organic vegetables to hotels and markets in town, including FCC Angkor, The Sugar Palm Restaurant and Lucky Mall.
FCC Executive Chef Matthew Bazley arrived here less than a year ago, and was pleased to find the growing popularity of environmentally friendly agriculture production in Siem Reap.
“It is great to see Cambodians getting reacquainted with the incredible products growing right in their backyard,” he said. “Cambodia is capable of growing so much. And it is fantastic to see local restaurants and farmers entering into mutually beneficial relationships.”
A new committee works to overcome obstacles faced by Cambodia’s small farmers, especially the prevailing system of payment from big businesses to small farmers who need fast cash. Fresh From Farm, Apsara Authority and the Siem Reap Department of Agriculture are all members of this group – the Agricultural Production & Marketing Coordinating Committee.
This committee works with farmers to produce and supply reliable seeds and fertilizers to local farmers, to encourage year-round production of a greater variety of fruits and vegetables, and to train local farmers and wholesalers to work together to maximize mutual benefits.
Good for Everyone
Farming without synthetic chemicals could catch on quickly here, even with farmers who are hesitant to alter farming techniques. Demand for healthy and organic produce is constantly growing.
If trials with biochemical agents continue to succeed, farmers could produce more and earn more money per hectare than farmers growing the same crops with synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.
In another move, Groupe de Recherche et d’Echanges Technologiques, a French NGO, is expanding their current agro-ecology project in Sotr Nikum district, 30 km southeast of Siem Reap city center.
“Our farmers are using only organic pesticides with local resources,” said Lucie Reynoud, a worker for the NGO. “This week we are organizing village training on preparation and use of new bio-pesticides.”