In a bid to alleviate the worst effects of rising food prices on the
poorest of the poor, the government and the ADB have launched a new
program to help them
Photo by: GEORGIA WILKINS
Finance Minister Keat Chhon at the launch of the ADB's emergency food security package in Battambang province on Wednesday.
THE ASIAN Development Bank launched its US$38 million Emergency Food Project Monday, choosing Pich Chenda commune in Battambang Province to begin the first round of rice handouts to Cambodians who have been the worst affected by global increased food prices.
The distribution is the first phase of a three-year project that will also provide subsidised seeds and fertilisers to farmers, as well as set up food-for-work programs.
"From today to Wednesday next week, the project will be distributing rice to 341,894 poor people, approximately 68,000 families, living in 200 communes of the provinces around the Tonle Sap lake and Oddar Meanchey," said Arjun Goswami, ADB's country director.
Finance Minister Keat Chhon attended the launch of the project, to which the government is committing an additional $5 million.
"Through this project, targeted at Cambodian poor people, we will not only be able to alleviate their poor living conditions...but also help many poor farmers boost agricultural yields," Goswami said.
Farmers in Pich Chenda, an isolated farming community in Phnom Prek district near the Thai border, have been pushed to sell their products short as soaring food prices hit them earlier this year.
Despite being situated on prime agricultural land, they have no access to a market or their own processing facilities, and must rely on middlemen to buy their goods.
Answer to the crisis
The governor of Battambang, Prach Chan, said that the project was "the answer to the current crisis".
"Increased food prices have worsened conditions," he said.
But others, while welcoming emergency relief, called for broader measures to be taken.
"The roads urgently need to be repaired. There is nearly no access to markets," said Deputy Governor of Battambang and provincial project manager Sun Heng.
"Farmers need loans from creditors or banks so that they can get access to production material to process their own products," he added.
Heng Rin, a 38-year-old widow who supports six children, said that the situation has gone from bad to worse since the food prices climbed.
"I am happy to receive the rice, but the bags will probably only last a few weeks," she said.
Goswami told the Post after the launch that he was aware that there were multiple sets of problems.
"It's not a crisis of availability, but a crisis of price," he said.