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Not a Khmer ‘tradition’ to invest in agriculture?

Tommy Christensen / Khmer Times Share:
A farmer working in the field in the Cambodian countryside. KT/Chor Sokunthea

It is not a Cambodian tradition to invest in agricultural development, but more to tap into the supply chain of hard working farmers. It is left up to foreign tax payers to contribute, with the argument that it lifts farmers out of poverty.

But things will never happen under such terms and conditions. Foreign tax-payers’ contributions are just a drop in the ocean. They, instead, create foreign working places with no sustainable project development. Budgets run out and NGO staff have to leave to maintain salaries. Business, in turn, drops as we see in the high-end restaurants frequented by foreigners.

And as always, who are left behind – yes, the farmers. This is where the private sector partners are supposed to come in and work hard to achieve results through commercial activities – not just run off when budgets run out.

Generally farmers do not complain, but players in the supply chain complain as revenue/profits are reduced and farmers to work harder for others to maintain their lifestyles (not fair deal).

If the incentive with project development is to help farmers come out of poverty, things could become quite complicated. It is easier to intervene within the agriculture supply chain when one becomes a supplier/buyer and the input goes directly to the sector. It also becomes more profitable.

As a private sector partner, our strategy and incentive from day one has been to develop sustainable and commercial driven irrigation schemes, develop and make available technology and financial instruments for farmers to increase their productivity, and help improve their gross revenue.

Over the past two years we have invested our own funds, paved the way, developed the concept, and chosen pilot project areas. We have put in eight years of experience behind feasibility studies and we are ready to execute project development. Nonetheless, we have yet to identify a local partner willing to contribute, receive external financing, and develop sustainable and commercial driven activities.

We understand there are ‘obstacles’ but all these are just getting us nowhere. We have the knowledge and field experience. There are incentives and markets for farmers – it’s all there.

Give us a chance. We have created a viable platform and now we are urgently seeking a local partner who’s willing to join us in a healthy sustainable business venture.

Tommy Christensen is the Founder and CEO of Green Country Development (GCD) Co., Ltd

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