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Forum tackles farmers’ woes

Discussions intended to focus on food security in the face of climate change unearthed underlying concerns about the allocation of land in the first day of a farmers’ workshop yesterday.

At the Third National Farmers’ Forum, attended by nearly 500 farmers from all 24 provinces as well as government and NGO representatives, the wide range of approaches advocated by the participants suggested no single clear path forward for farmers with little land to their names who live with the constant threat of droughts and floods caused by climate change.   

Various presenters recommended that participants turn their attention to finding markets for Cambodian produce, spreading more sustainable technology and improving infrastructure, but all, like Chhith Sam Ath, head of the NGO Forum on Cambodia, stressed that “food security is especially difficult for the small farmer, who has few resources.”

When one such farmer from Stung Treng asked presenters why small farmers saw so little support, Dr Mak Seoun, a director at the Ministry of Agriculture, jumped in to defend the government’s land policies.

“The government recognises the complex problem of land,” Seoun said, echoing Deputy Prime Minister Yim Chai Ly’s statement earlier in the morning that the government is working to implement Hun Sen’s new land-titling program.

“We are now implementing this policy, so please don’t worry,” Seoun said. “The problem is NGOs that don’t cooperate with the government.”

NGOs and government ministries alike seek sustainable agricultural development but often have conflicting ways of reaching that goal, he added.

Other organisations were more diplomatic, with UNDP representative Iding Phearonic stating, “I think we need to work together more.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Justine Drennan at justine.drennan@phnompenhpost.com

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