The third phase of the Cambodia Horticulture Advancing Income and Nutrition (CHAIN-III) project was officially launched on January 22 in a bid to ramp up production and shore up sustainable horticultural trade to improve the livelihoods of Cambodians in remote rural areas.

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed to this effect by General Directorate of Agriculture head Ngin Chhay and Alexandra Mandelbaum, director of Dutch development organisation SNV, at the ministry.

The CHAIN-III project will seek to develop additional services to enhance the production of safe horticultural products, SNV said.

It remarked that CHAIN-III is a follow-up to CHAIN-II’s 2018-2020 run and CHAIN-I, which ran from 2014 and successfully finalised in 2017.

The projects are funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and implemented by SNV and the Cambodian Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, it added.

Chhay said the overall goal of the project is to increase the income and nutrition of smallholder farmers in rural areas of target provinces by increasing production and quality in safe horticultural trade.

By 2022, the project aims to provide sustainable income growth to 15,000 homestead farmers, 3,000 commercial farmers and 1,200 processors, as well as improve food security and nutrition for 72,000 farmer households, he said.

Speaking at the event, SDC director Markus Burli said his agency would continue to support the agriculture ministry and help develop sustainable agriculture to increase household incomes and nutrition for Cambodians.

He said: “We appreciate and highly evaluate the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and all stakeholders for their efforts to effectively promote Cambodian horticultural production, especially over the past three years, seeing that local vegetable production supplies more than 68 per cent of domestic consumption.”

Minister Veng Sakhon, who presided over the event, said CHAIN-III is in line with the Agriculture Sector Strategic Development Plan 2019-2023 and its vision of transforming Cambodian agriculture into a modern sector which is endowed with competitive advantages, inclusivity, climate change resistance and sustainability, and that creates prosperity and wellbeing for Cambodians.

He expressed his belief that the project would deliver state-of-the-art techniques to the Kingdom’s horticulturalists to grow crops, foster a safer produce market and contribute to improving rural livelihoods.

“I would like to thank all stakeholders, local authorities of target provinces, development partners – especially SDC – for providing financial support for project implementation, turning non-crop areas into safe vegetable production zones to supply the market,” Sakhon said.

With a total $10 million budget, the eight-year run of CHAIN projects, from 2014-2022, has been put in place across Kratie, Stung Treng, Preah Vihear and Oddar Meanchey provinces, which are classified as remote and plateau regions along the Kingdom’s international borders, according to Chhay.

With special attention to women, he noted that in the past six years, the project has provided a transformation for nearly 10,000 farmers from traditional subsistence agricultural systems to commercial and semi-commercial ones to supply the market.

He said: “The project focuses on the value chain of horticulture in all target provinces and promotes sustainable household income growth and improved household food security and climate change resilience.”