The Ministry of Agriculture has pledged to achieve the goal of reducing poverty among small landholders despite the COVID-19 pandemic. The ministry is aiming to achieve this through the Agriculture Services Programme for Innovation, Resilience and Extension (ASPIRE) project Phase II by 2022.
Minister of Agriculture, Veng Sakhon, also the co-president of the ASPIRE project visited five provinces this week to examine the progress of the project’s implementation, which includes vegetable farming and chicken raising in Kampong Chnang, Pusat, Battambang, Siem Reap and Kampong Thom.
He said the Ministry has pledged to achieve the goal of ASPIRE, which is to improve small landholders’ revenue by 15 percent annually and increase the family assets by 25 percent.
Veng Sakhon said the programme has now entered its second phase which will be finished in 2022. He said the project was very important for assisting smallholders with new farming techniques and resistance to climate change. “With this project, we could increase both vegetable and meat supply up to between 60 and 80 percent. Even in the time of a pandemic, we now can have enough ability to supply the local market,” he said.
Sakhon said farmers earn more revenue by doing contract farming with buyers at stable prices and a direct link to the major markets.
“They have signed contracts with supermarkets in Phnom Penh such as Aeon for supplying their products so they are not worried about the local market prices,” he said.
ASPIRE is a programme of the Royal Government of Cambodia, supported by the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD), which aims to improve the extension services available to Cambodia’s smallholder farmers.
ASPIRE works with farmers and especially with poor and vulnerable smallholder farmers, to develop their farms into a resilient and profitable business.
Sakhon said the project has now been expanded to 24 provinces in the country. He said in 2019 and 2020, a total of 123 net houses have been built for crop farmers and expects to add 400 more in the third phase.
“With these net houses, we don’t use chemicals to sustain crops and farmers can increase the capacity of growing for both the rainy and dry seasons,” he said.
The project will last for four to five years at a cost at around $40 million to $80 million in each phase. It is funded by IFAD and the Cambodia government, according to Sakhon.
Meng Sakphouseth, IFAD’s country programme officer to Cambodia, says so far there are 110,000 smallholder families who have joined the project across the country. They mostly focus on vegetables, cassava, fish, chicken and pig raising.
Sakphouseth said once the project is implemented, farmers see their revenue increase around 15 percent.
“Farmers have received technical training on farming that responds to market demand,” he said. “And we have taught farmers to form business clusters that link producers with buyers.”
He said so far ASPIRE has established business clusters ofaround 1,000 partners.