The long-awaited Agricultural Extension Policy, rolled out yesterday by the Agriculture Ministry, will focus on making up-to-date knowledge and technology accessible to farming communities and increase efficiency and productivity in the sector.
The policy will be implemented by an advisory committee, with commune- and provincial-level offices communicating technical know-how and supplying raw materials to farmers, said Mak Soeun, director of the Department of Agricultural Extension.
“One agricultural extension agent will be placed in every commune to coordinate with other agricultural extension agents from the private sector and development partners. They will be the ones who will transfer and provide the right and updated knowledge and technology to everyone involved,” he said.
“The purpose of having this policy is to have a clear roadmap for everyone to follow.”
Soeun said the policy will be implemented using five steps: strengthening of the regulatory framework on agricultural extension; increasing the capacity of officers and agents; incorporating affordable and practical farming techniques; improved information and messaging; and better delivery systems for this information.
At least 2,000 additional agricultural-extension specialists will be needed to fill the gaps in human capital. Currently, there are only 70 agricultural-extension officers at the national level and less than 1,000 at the provincial level, Soeun said.
The funding will come from the government, donor organisations, private sector and fees from services on big farms. The policy also puts in place monitoring and evaluation systems, which will be implemented by local authorities and provincial departments of agriculture.
Prior to the release of the new policy, the ministry used agricultural research dating back to 1998 and guidelines first established in 2000, both of which lacked proper mechanisms, regulations and tools to facilitate agricultural services.
Sean Callahan, acting mission director at USAID Cambodia, said apart from a lack of coordination in services and inadequate funding, poor communication between farmers and extension agents needed to be addressed.
“Smallholder farmers do not have access to appropriate technologies. The crucial link between farmers and markets or the connection between agricultural research and farmers are weak,” Callahan said.
He added that training sessions with the use of technology would help farmers make effective use of new seed varieties, fertilisers and pesticides.
“It provides farmers with the knowledge and information that they need to increase their yields,” he added.
Chan Sophal, director for the Centre for Policy Studies, said success of the new policy will hinge on the effectiveness of the services provided and funding that can be collected.
“This is Cambodia’s first agricultural-extension policy and is expected to improve farmers’ access to improved technologies and raise their productivity. In addition, the policy will hopefully enhance the quality and efficiency of government and non-government extension services.”