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Agriculture Ministry asks FAO for support

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Local communities rely on fishing for a living. Heng Chivoan

Agriculture Ministry asks FAO for support

The Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon on Wednesday asked the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) for financial and technical support to improve the living standards of local communities that still rely on fishery and forestry products for a living.

The request was made during the National Consultative Workshop on FAO Country Programme’s Evaluation in Phnom Penh on Wednesday.

Sakhon asked the FAO to expand its agriculture, livestock or aquaculture programmes to reduce the people’s dependence on fishery and forestry products.

“We are considering supporting them. Depending on the mushroom, latex or forestry products would not be enough to support their daily living."

“They cannot rely on them anymore because the cost of living is higher than before. They need to raise livestock and grow fruits and vegetables to support their families,” he said.

Sakhon also asked the FAO to help the ministry to formulate agricultural policies and analyse data related to agriculture in general and eco-agriculture in particular.

FAO’s Office of Evaluation director Masahiro Igarashi welcomed Sakhon’s proposals. He said FAO officials will further discuss the size of its aid and type of equipment to be provided to the Kingdom.

“We will promote cooperation between the FAO, Agriculture Ministry and other relevant institutions to enhance the capacity of farmers and agriculture groups."

“We’ll help connect them with the markets. In today’s context, food security is a top priority for Cambodia,” Igarashi said.

Pen Bonna, a senior land and natural resources officer for rights group Adhoc, echoed Igarashi’s remarks, but he described the agriculture minister’s proposal as too little too late.

He said local communities in remote areas had already suffered from deforestation and the subsequent loss of their ancestral land.

“They always harvest latex, collect mushrooms, harvest vegetables that grow in the forest and various types of wild fruits to sell at the market. They earn between 20,000 and 40,000 riel ($5-$10) per day.

“If the forest is gone, they will lose everything,” he said, urging the government to reach out to them in a timely manner."

Samorn Lamei, who lives in the Srepok Wildlife Sanctuary in Mondulkiri province’s Pichreada district, told The Post on Wednesday that local communities would be better off if the programmes were implemented.

He said the forest that local communities had been relying on has been invaded by traders.

“Now villagers rarely collect forestry products like before. While young people find jobs at Korean factories near the villages, older people enter the forest once in a while [to harvest wild fruits], which is very difficult,” he said.