Groups making a difference

Groups making a difference

CEDAC: Empowering farmers
By Koam Tivea

The Cambodia Center of Study and Development in Agriculture (CEDAC) is one of Cambodia’s most successful and well-known agricultural NGOs. With well over a decade of activity in the Kingdom, CEDAC have improved the lives of small farmers, who comprise the majority of the country’s population, in a way that very few organisations have done before.

Established in 1997 with the mission of economically empowering Cambodia’s poor farmers, CEDAC has worked with over 100,000 small farming families in 20 provinces to improve their socio-economic conditions and agricultural output.

“Seeing that farmers lack the techniques and skills to increase food production, CEDAC has provided training and workshops in agriculture for farmers in rural areas,” said Him Khortieth, CEDAC’s media and communications officer.

Recognising the communal nature of Cambodian society, CEDAC works through trusted village leaders and community councils in order to distribute information.

In addition to helping farmers increase their crop production, CEDAC also teaches farmers how to find markets to sell their products and maximise their earnings. By assisting farmers in connecting to new markets, Him Khortieth said that the organisation is helping them become more independent and able to decide their own destinies.

To create a healthier (and potentially more profitable) food supply, CEDAC has encouraged farmers to boost organic food production by using natural fertilisers rather than chemical ones. Him Khortieth said that growing organic rice could allow Cambodia to export to foreign countries like France, Germany, the United States and Malaysia.

Although CEDAC has a good track record, their goal of strengthening the capacity of 500,000 small Cambodian farmers is quite ambitious. But whether they succeed or not, Cambodia could use more organisations like CEDAC – who work with villagers, respond to their needs and show tangible evidence of making positive improvements in the lives of farmers.

NKA: Helping to reduce dependence on chemical fertilisers
By Chan Sovannara

Effective Microorganisms, or EMs, are a special combination of growth-enhancing microorganisms that have a wide range of uses, from crop protection to the creation of beauty products. They were invented by a Japanese scientist in 1980, but have not recognised by the Cambodian Ministry of Environment until 2005.

Now the Neary Khmer Association for Health and Vocational Training (NKA) is introducing Cambodian farmers to EMs, which can be used instead of harmful chemical pesticides.

NKA’s director, Ing Sovanly, said that her organisation was formed “because many people are presently obsessed with using chemical substances in agriculture.”

She said that EMs not only prevent insects from destroying crops, but also reduce the amount of acid and chemicals that seep into Cambodia’s farmlands.

NKA attempted to introduce EMs to Cambodian farmers in 2004, but they found little interest among farmers, who were hesitant to change the farming practices that had been handed down to them through the generations.

But two years later, NKA decided to relaunch their efforts through a series of training courses.

According to Ing Sovanly, the courses are free. NKA requires only that farmers pay US$15 to $20 for books and materials.

In return, NKA provides follow-up assistance to farmers, in order to ensure that the EMs are being implemented effectively.

In addition to the agricultural sector, NKA is also utilising EMs for a variety of beauty products. Ing Sovanly said that since EMs are naturally beneficial to life and growth, they can have many positive effects – not only for plants, but for the human body, too.

Srer Khmer: Bringing independence to rural Cambodia
By Koam Tivea

There is an old Chinese saying: “give a person a fish, and you feed them for a day. Teach a person how to fish, and you feed them for a lifetime.”

But for Pou Sovann and his colleagues at the Srer Khmer (Fields of Cambodia) organisation, simply teaching the country’s rural poor to fish and farm isn’t enough. Besides their extensive farmer-led training network, which has engaged more than 30,000 farmers in ongoing training programmes meant to boost productivity and income, Srer Khmer has also launched the Farmer Life School, which teaches farmers about social issues.

“We talk about issues such as how people contract HIV/AIDS, why children cannot go to school, why villagers lose their land, why natural resources are declining, and so on. We ask farmers to discuss these issues so that they can improve their social understanding,” said Pou Sovann, the executive director of the organisation.

According to Pou Sovann, Srer Khmer focuses on four main initiatives: research, training, education, and community development. But rather than bring their own ideas to farmers, the staff at Srer Khmer simply provides technical support, encouraging farmers to research and develop their own ideas for how to improve themselves and their community.

“Whatever we do, we do it through participatory learning, farmer-initiated innovation and farmer networking,” Pou Sovann said. “This helps poor farmers cooperate and create sustainable socio-economic development.”

By encouraging farmers to think for themselves instead of relying on help from NGOs and aid groups, Srer Khmer is working to make a lasting positive impact that will create real independence and opportunities for the rural poor in Cambodia.


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