PHNOM PENH: The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the Cambodian Agriculture Cooperative Corporation (CACC) on May 8 launched a new project targeting over 1,200 smallholder farmers and their extended families in Koh Nhek, Mondulkiri, the country’s north-eastern province.
According to a press release of WFP Cambodia dated Monday, with funding from the Global Agriculture and Food Security Programme and CACC – respectively $1.79 million and $1.1 million, the project aims to enhance the resilience and livelihoods of smallholder farmers through organic agriculture and access to markets. It also seeks to promote improved nutrition and gender equity through social behavior change approaches, designed to generate demand for healthy diets and tackle harmful social norms.
“The project was designed in the COVID-19 context and adopted an innovative public-private-producer partnership approach, underscoring the need to leverage private-sector investment, strengthen policy dialogue, secure the necessary know-how, and support more environmentally sound, socially equitable, and economically viable development,” said Claire Conan, WFP Representative in Cambodia.
CACC will build an inclusive and integrated organic food value chain and incentivize smallholder farmers, including women and indigenous populations, to switch to the organic farming approach using only natural fertilizers and pesticides, coupled with other climate-smart practices.
“The prices of organic food are higher and more stable than traditional commodities, creating opportunities for higher profit margins and steadier sources of income,” said Kunthy Kann, CACC managing director, noting that smallholder farmers of Mondulkiri tend to restrict their cultivation to rice, employing largely traditional rotation farming practices, making their yields vulnerable to climatic and other types of shocks.
“Our goal is to increase the participating farmers’ incomes by up to 20 percent, compared to typical farm gate returns,” Kann added, illustrating that CACC will facilitate market linkages to ensure this, and the farmers will be able to use the premiums earned to better safeguard against future shocks and stresses.
“Increased income will play an important role in facilitating better nutrition as households can access more diverse and healthy foods, siding away the negative impacts of shock-induced damages on their household nutrition,” said Conan, noting that the connections between livelihoods and nutrition are of particular significance given the high poverty and malnutrition levels in the targeted area.
“To tackle the issues, the project will deploy social behavior change communication to influence food behaviors and gender equality in the households,” said Conan, adding that engaging women in the project is a key transforming factor because, in Cambodia, women play a lead role in households’ food management and makeup over half of the agricultural labor force countrywide despite facing many difficulties in terms of access to land, extension services, financial services, market, and technology.