The government’s goal of Cambodia becoming a high middle-income country by 2030 before reaching high-income status by 2050 could well become a reality given Cambodia’s stellar economic growth of 7.3 per cent over a decade, prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, these ambitious targets can only be achieved by diversifying the Kingdom’s domestic economy and by developing human capital to support growth.
Towards this, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has played a critical role in assisting the socio-economic development of Cambodia.
Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) to produce a skilled workforce to meet growing market demand – especially as the Kingdom prepares for Industry 4.0 – will remain one of the top priorities.
The sector faces numerous challenges, from a lack of physical infrastructure, training equipment and materials, as well as the limited capacity of management officers and technical instructors, as highlighted in the TVET Master Plan 2021-2025.
To address this, the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, with the support of JICA, initiated the “Project for Improving TVET Quality to Meet the Needs of Industries” in 2015 to develop a skilled workforce to shape Cambodia’s future socioeconomic development. This is set to end in March.
The project rests on five key pillars. The first of these include the development of a standard training package (STP) for a higher diploma in electrical work, providing STPs to instructors and developing systems to disseminate STPs for the higher diploma in electrical work to non-pilot TVET institutes.
It also focuses on developing systems to maintain and manage training facilities and equipment at pilot TVET institutes, as well as strengthening partnerships between the industries and pilot TVET institutes.
JICA has been working closely with the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and the pilot TVET institutes to achieve these goals.
The outcomes have been successful, with private companies that have hired graduates being pleased with their performance.
Developed by the National Training Board as the first diploma-level national curriculum, the STP was approved last September.
At pilot institutes, JICA has implemented a range of initiatives, including conducting seminars on using training equipment and collaborating with the Department of Labour Market Information to hold the National TVET Day.
It has also worked with the National Employment Agency to hold the National Career and Productivity Fair, and organised skills competitions.
Covid-19 and flood victim support
JICA has also been working with the Ministry of Health to strengthen healthcare infrastructure through its Grant Aid and Technical Cooperation project since 1995.
Facilities and medical equipment have been upgraded at the National Maternal and Child Health Center (NMCHC), the National Tuberculosis Control Program (NTP) at the National Center for Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control (CENAT), and the Sihanoukville Hospital, as well as the Mongkul Borey, Kampong Cham, Svay Rieng, Battambang and Siem Reap referral hospitals.
The upskilling of healthcare workers has been accomplished through JICA technical cooperation, such as with the Project for the Promotion of Monitoring and Evaluation Management System, and the Project for Strengthening Human Resource Development System of Co-Medicals.
It has also been carried out through the Project for Improving Continuum of Care with a focus on intrapartum and neonatal care.
JICA also provided a SuperScript III Platinum and One-Step Quantitative RT PCR system to the Institut Pasteur du Cambodge (IPC) last July as part of its Covid-19 assistance.
In order to increase Covid-19 testing capacity, JICA contributed a further eight kits of SuperScript III Platinum and One-Step Quantitative RT PCR to the IPC on February 6, while another eight QIAamp Viral RNA Mini Kits were delivered on February 18.
It will also provide three thermo-graphy kits, including tripods and laptops, to the NMCHC for Covid-19 screening in April.
JICA has also promoted health awareness at the grassroots level with “The Project for Enhancing Covid-19 Prevention through Community Outreach”.
The programme provided training on Covid-19 prevention to 312 garment and textile factory workers in Bavet town in Svay Rieng province, while face masks and hand sanitiser were also distributed to health centre staff in the province.
JICA also delivered medication, hand sanitiser and soap to provincial health departments in Kandal, Banteay Meanchey, Battambang and Pursat provinces after severe flooding last October.
Tonle Sap Lake conservation
JICA has also been active in environmental projects.
The Science and Technology Research Partnership for Sustainable Development (SATREPS) is an initiative to promote international joint research using advanced Japanese science and technology through Japan’s Official Development Assistance.
The Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) and JICA teamed up to drive SATREPS, which will promote Sustainable Development Goals at the global level.
Additionally, the “Establishment of Environmental Conservation Platform of Tonle Sap Lake” is a five-year project funded by JICA and JST.
In Japan, the project is led by the Tokyo Institute of Technology in collaboration with the Institute of Global Environmental Strategies and Yamagata University.
The Institute of Technology of Cambodia is spearheading the project by partnering with the Ministry of Environment, the Tonle Sap Authority, the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, and the Royal University of Phnom Penh.
Experts are aiming to develop a water environment analysis tool for the Tonle Sap lake and establish an environmental conservation platform through the elucidation of the lake.
JICA recently distributed calendars to schoolchildren and residents living around the lake as part of a public awareness campaign on the importance of proper sanitation and the supply of clean water for public health.
Some key findings and evidence-based recommendations from the SATREPS project can be found at https://www.iges.or.jp/en/pub/tonlesapsatreps/en.
In addition, a video on the SATREPS project has also been developed to inform about recent environmental changes in the Tonle Sap lake and the impacts on local people, their livelihoods and public health. This can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8cvUyD6mpxk&t=41s.
JICA organised the 5th International Symposium on the Conservation and Management of Tropical Lakes – held online from February 4-5 – which was held in conjunction with the 13th Regional Conference on Chemical Engineering 2020.
The virtual conference included the 5th Joint Coordinating Committee on the “Establishment of Environmental Conservation Platform of Tonle Sap Lake” project.
This reviewed the project’s achievements and the challenges faced in 2020, as well as action plans for the final implementation of the project in March next year.
Meanwhile, the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV) programme was suspended for nine months from last March due to the Covid-19 outbreak. More than 1,800 JICA volunteers worldwide returned to Japan, including 20 volunteers from Cambodia.
However, with Cambodia’s efforts in combating the pandemic, volunteers were able to return to the Kingdom last December to resume their activities.
While there may be some challenges, this year’s recruitment and dispatch will proceed as planned, with JICA will starting recruitment this autumn.
Around 30 volunteers will be dispatched by this year to Cambodia in the fields of health, vocational training, education and sport, mainly primary school education, science and physical education, particularly swimming and football.