In collaboration with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) held a forum this week on food safety and integrated pest management (IPM).
The meeting ran from Monday to Tuesday in Siem Reap province and brought together participants from the regional, national and sub-national levels, including policymakers, as well as development partners, agricultural experts, researchers and farmers.
Also present were representatives from the private sector and national and international food safety NGOs.
Speaking at the forum, Dr Ngin Chhay, the director-general of the ministry’s General Directorate of Agriculture, said in the 1960s increased food production meant good incomes for farmers.
However, this had decreased due to increasing production costs year-on-year, with profits instead going to vendors of agricultural materials and producers of seed, fertilisers and pesticides.
“At the same time, farmers have experienced many negative impacts, such as the loss of useful insects in the crop environmental system and the spread of diseases that infect animals and destroy crops. These result in a decline in agricultural prices and affect the wellbeing of both farmers and consumers.
“Consequently, many national and international organisations promoted the IPM programme to reduce the use of chemicals in agriculture, which relied on four basic principles – good growth, improved animal care, regular checks on rice paddies and the provision of improved agricultural methods.
“Five measures were also included – agronomy, mechanics, biology, physics and chemistry,” Dr Chhay said.
FAO representative in Cambodia Alexandre Huynh said: “Our experiences in other countries have shown that implementing good practices for food safety through the chain can reduce costs for the producer and result in higher income.”
However, increasingly complex challenges, including climate change, malnutrition, food safety concerns, depleting natural resources and an increasing population, meant interventions have to go through many stages – from the field to the farm, wet market and supermarket, and finally to the home.
However, Huynh said he was optimistic that during the two days of the forum, stakeholders would have shared experience and lessons, as well held discussions to identify key challenges based on strategic priorities and practical solutions.
Cambodia first implemented the scheme in 1993 with support from partners such as the FAO, IRRI, Danida, the Asia Development Bank, the World Bank, the EU, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and USAid, achieving remarkable results for more than two decades, Dr Chhay said.
The IPM programme, he said, was first successfully implemented in Indonesia before being rolled out in other countries in Southeast Asia, the Asia-Pacific region, Africa and Latin America.
Khloun Chantheng, a 58-year-old farmer from Thma Koul district in Battambang province who attended the forum, told The Post that climate change had created difficulties in growing crops, with some areas not having enough water.
“The implementation of the four basic principles and the five measures of IPM brings success in growing crops. But crops are only good in areas that have enough water.
“To improve the livelihoods of farmers in remote and vulnerable areas, the government and development partners should build reservoirs and expand irrigation systems, as well as further reduce the price of fuel and electricity,” he said.