The Agriculture Services Programme for Innovation, Resilience and Extension (ASPIRE) has been a major driver of job creation, income empowerment, poverty reduction and food security in rural areas, according to Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon.

The programme has armed many people with the technical knowledge and skills on growing “safe vegetables” – or those reasonably free of chemical and microbiological contaminants – raising chickens and fish, and has helped develop agricultural systems for the “new normal” era that are resilient to climate change, he said.

Sakhon made the remark on February 17 during a meeting with a working group from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), which is implementing the ASPIRE, according to a statement issued by the minister.

The IFAD website indicates that the 2014-2022 ASPIRE would have a total project cost of $86.25 million. The minister revealed that its extension, ASPIRE 2, is scheduled to be implemented from 2023-2027, and that $150 million had been earmarked for the programme from 2022-2027.

The minister said in the statement: “Through this programme, we’ve seen a growing number of shops and stalls selling safe vegetables in urban areas and communities.

“Most of their vegetables, fruits, fish and chicken are grown in communities or other groups receiving technical support from ASPIRE that is directly administered by the General Directorate of Agriculture and relevant institutions,” Sakhon said.

The IFAD working group reported encouraging results from evaluations of ASPIRE’s economic effectiveness, saying that for each dollar spent on implementation, beneficiaries in the 23 covered provinces substantially profit from the use of novel climate change-resilient techniques and sales of safe agricultural products developed by virtue of the programme, according to the statement.

The working group outlined its three primary missions – the 2022-2027 Country Strategy Opportunities Programme (COSOP); Agriculture Services Programme for an Inclusive Rural Economy and Agricultural Trade (ASPIRE-AT); and Building Adaptive Capacity through the Scaling-up of Renewable Energy Technologies in Rural Cambodia (SRET 2).

Sakhon voiced support for ASPIRE and its extension, and said he looks forward to working with IFAD on its missions to ensure the success of the programme, for the sake of its donors, direct beneficiaries and the government.

He also commented that beneficiaries should be sufficiently capable of utilising the techniques promoted by ASPIRE and ensuring the economic sustainability of their operations, even after the end of the programme.