Khmer Enterprise, in collaboration with three NGOs, initiated the Khmer Agriculture for the Future (KAF) Incubator. This 16-month venture under the Nurture Project aims to bolster entrepreneurship in the sector.

It recognises the pivotal role of start-ups in offering climate resilient agriculture (CRA) and agro-ecological products and services to smallholder farmers.

On August 11, in association with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), HEKS/EPER Cambodia and CARITAS Switzerland, the KAF project was officially unveiled.

“Smallholder farmers in Cambodia are especially susceptible to climate change repercussions. As a result, it’s crucial they have access to bespoke innovations. These can aid their adaptive measures and offer diversified market prospects,” said a joint press release seen by The Post on August 14.

“The Khmer Agriculture for the Future Incubator encourages market-driven innovations. These enable smallholder farmers to obtain climate resilient agriculture commodities and services. They also help broaden market access, assisting in adapting and defending against climate change challenges,” it added.

Detailing the project’s 16-month timeline, the release indicated its significance in bridging a crucial void. It aids entrepreneurs in honing and amplifying minimal viable products and services. These in turn empower smallholder farmers to enhance their climate resilience.

Chhieng Vanmunin, the CEO of Khmer Enterprise, noted the government’s ongoing efforts.

“We are striving to shape an entrepreneurial framework that addresses climate change, yet remains competitive,” he said. “The Khmer Agriculture for the Future Incubator is tailored to introduce pioneering solutions to refine agricultural practices.”

Vanmunin elaborated on the project’s expansive scope. It predominantly aids residents in the countryside regions spanning four focal provinces: Battambang, Banteay Meanchey, Oddar Meanchey and Preah Vihear.

The initiative will unfold in three distinct stages: pre-incubation, incubation and subsequent mentoring. This structure guarantees start-ups garner multifaceted support to mould their offerings for smallholder farmers.

Weighing in on the situation, SDC director Markus Buerli commented on the agricultural predicaments Cambodia grapples with.

“Droughts and floods are amplifying threats. It’s the smallholder farmers who bear the brunt of these adversities. Our agency, SDC, remains resolutely devoted to aiding them in revising their production techniques in the face of these challenges,” he said.

“There’s no shortage of technologies and services. The challenge is ensuring these are accessible to smallholder farmers and tailored to Cambodian rural settings.

Through this scheme, we aim to assist start-ups and firms to broaden their repertoire. Incorporating modern, climate-adaptable and agro-ecological methods and services is our goal. Successfully presenting these to Cambodia’s smallholder farmers will not just aid climate adaptation, but also foster a resilient market landscape,” he added.

Julien Brewster, regional director for the Mekong at HEKS/EPER, also shared his insights.

“Despite witnessing a surge in agricultural entrepreneurship over the past 10 years, start-ups and businesses grapple with hurdles.

“These revolve around amplifying products and services, inclusive of climate-adaptable solutions like seeds, solar pumps and organic fertilisers, especially to isolated rural regions,” he said.

Brewster further emphasised the tangible benefits the programme is set to deliver.

“It’s designed to grant agricultural start-ups and businesses pivotal access to an array of resources. From skill development, knowledge sharing, mentoring, to networking and financial support, the programme is comprehensive,” he noted.

“Our primary goal is to fortify smallholder farmers against the repercussions of climate change. In the process, we also anticipate enhancing their livelihoods. Moreover, this initiative is poised to be a catalyst for rural employment and budding entrepreneurial ventures,” he added.

The joint press release also shed light on an integral collaborator – Impact Hub Phnom Penh. Tasked with steering the incubation programme, they bring a robust legacy of nurturing entrepreneurial talents within Cambodia.

Offering her perspective, Impact Hub Phnom Penh CEO Melanie Mossard articulated the organisation’s vision.

“Our objective is to deliver top-tier incubation support to our intrepid start-ups. We intend to achieve this through mentorship, hands-on training, and an ethos rooted in communal learning,” she said.