A project helping villagers to farm fish, vegetables and other protein-rich food on their land to boost their nutrient intake will be massively upscaled, it was revealed this week.
Started as a research project in 2012, the “Fish on Farm” project involved Cambodian and Canadian researchers working with 900 households in Prey Veng province to reduce their reliance on rice.
The two-year study, led by researchers from the University of British Columbia and from the local chapter of Helen Keller International, helped villagers integrate aquaculture, poultry farming and home gardening into their farming, and offered education on healthy eating.
Following the successful two-year study, the initiative has been given a $2.5 million budget and will be rolled out to 4,500 households in Kampong Cham, Kampot and Phnom Penh,
Helen Keller International agriculture, food security and nutrition expert Zaman Talukder said the project would indirectly benefit 22,500 families who could learn from their neighbours.
Talukder said the first phase had shown impressive results, increasing income in 50 per cent of the households through the sale of fish and produce.
He said health benefits delivered by small nutrient-rich fish grown by families for consumption were particularly important.
“Cambodian people’s diet is very much rice-based, so there is a problem with malnutrition of children under 5; 55 per cent are anemic and 44 per cent are stunted. It’s a serious problem in Cambodia,” he said.
“One of the main reasons is the intake of quality food is lacking; that’s why this kind of intervention really improves family health.
“It is particularly important for the children, who are the most vulnerable group.”
Although the research phase was completely funded by donors, the next phase will run under a “cost share” model, with a microfinance organisation helping those involved with loans, Talukder said, adding the fish ponds cost about $200.
He said the selection process – set to take place over the coming months – would target the most vulnerable and disadvantaged families.
Backing the project is Canada’s International Development Research Center and Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada.
It is among work funded by the $103 million Canadian International Food Security Research Fund.
The Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries is also involved in the project, along with local NGOs, which will be launched in Phnom Penh on May 5.