Experts yesterday said farmers should strive to adopt more sustainable farming practices that are less reliant on pesticides, which will boost their incomes, improve their health and help protect the environment.
Speaking at a panel discussion held in Phnom Penh’s Royal University of Agriculture, industry insiders and researchers agreed that the government should do more to promote farming practices based on newer technologies and that are less dependent on pesticides and other chemical-based products.
They said farmers should instead rely more on biofertilizers, organic fertilizers and cover crops, all of which will boost soil quality.
Men Sarom, vice-rector of Royal University of Agriculture, said, “The majority of Cambodian farmers depend on traditional or conventional practices, many of which are unsustainable.
“However, efforts are being made to spread sustainable agricultural practices, which could lead to high level of success,” he said.
He explained that the term ‘sustainable agriculture’ does not just mean ‘organic’. Sustainable farming practices utilise modern technology in combination with natural methods to minimise the ecological footprint while simultaneously allowing farmers to earn more for their products, Mr Sarom said.
Neang Malyne, co-director of Ecoland, a research centre in the Royal University of Agriculture, shared the same views: “These techniques can help farmers generate a higher income while protecting the environment.”
Noun Tum, business development manager at Khmer Organic Cooperative and Eco-Agri Centre, said his institution is working to implement sustainable practices at every stage of the process, from planting the seeds to supplying the final product to markets.
“We are promoting sustainable agriculture products across the country. Our goal is to promote organic, healthy products,” he said, adding that to achieve this they are training farmers and providing them with the support they need.
Pen Sony, Secretary-General of the Federation of Farmer Associations Promoting Family Agricultural Enterprise in Cambodia, said the government should prepare a set of guidelines or a national policy on sustainable agriculture.
“We need to change farmers’ attitude, as well as that of the government, so that people better understand sustainable agriculture,” Mr Sony said.
To enable farmers to scale up their operations and implement sustainable techniques, all constraints must be taken into consideration, including obstacles to access the market, lack of knowledge and skill, and limited access to finance, Leng Vira, an agriculture researcher, said.
“The first thing farmers will ask is how much money they can earn compared to conventional agriculture techniques. If they find that they can earn more with sustainable techniques, they will adopt them,” he said.
In 2017, Louvain Cooperation Cambodia conducted a study with Ecoland on the benefits of sustainable agriculture for farmers in Cambodia.
They found that sustainable practices can improve farmers’ lives in a variety of ways. They do not only correlate with higher incomes, but also help improve farmers’ health as they are consuming chemical-free products. The same study associated sustainable practices with a number of other “environmental and social” benefits.