Opinion by Pieter Ypma, Agribusiness Manager of CAVAC, the Cambodian Agricultural Value Chain Program
If Cambodian rice farmers would apply fertiliser better, they could increase yields and earn more money.
Extension services by the government and by NGOs have helped improve farmer practices, but use of fertilisers is still far from optimal.
Under the guidance of the Royal Government of Cambodia, AusAID’s agricultural program CAVAC helps farmers in a different way. It is helping 13 fertiliser companies to become a source of knowledge.
Companies realise that better relationships with farmers will increase sales, and that offering advice on how to apply fertiliser is a good way to create loyal clients.
CAVAC realises that if companies and their retailers become information centres for farmers, information on new technologies and techniques will continue to be available to farmers beyond the life of CAVAC.
This approach is not new and has been applied in other countries in the region, such as Bangladesh.
Two years ago, Australia’s agricultural program agreed with a fertiliser company in Takeo to try working together. Later, a large national fertiliser company became CAVAC’s second partner.
The first activity with the new partner was national retailer training on optimal use of fertiliser, in April, 2011 in Phnom Penh. CAVAC funded part of the costs.
Regional training followed to increase retailers’ capacity to give advice, but also to demonstrate to retailers how giving information is good business. 150 retailers from four provinces participated.
CAVAC also worked with the company to improve its internal quality control, to assure the best quality fertiliser for its clients. Initial signs were encouraging: sales of fertiliser went up 10 to 20 per cent because of the better relationship between retailers and farmers.
The company now plans to continue training its retailers and has requested CAVAC’s assistance to help set up this internal system.
The sales increase did not go unnoticed by other fertiliser companies, and CAVAC has agreed to give similar support to 12 other companies. If successful, this initiative could benefit large numbers of farmers.
It could help farmers make better choices when applying organic or chemical fertiliser and ultimately increase their productivity and incomes.
What is equally good is that this advice comes for free when buying fertiliser, now and in the future.
This intervention is a good example of how the Australian Government and the Royal Government of Cambodia are working closely together to increase the production of paddy and improve farmers’ lives.