Prime Minister Hun Sen encouraged more female students to study agriculture, noting that they were still heavily outnumbered by their male counterparts. He also called for more agricultural research to be carried out.

The premier made the remarks while presiding over a May 15 graduation ceremony for over 3,000 students from the Royal University of Agriculture (RUA), Prek Leap National College of Agriculture (PNCA) and Kampong Cham National School of Agriculture (KCNSA).

“Although we currently see only a small number of female students in agriculture, I think this will change in the future. There may be some misconceptions about who is best suited to work in this field. Some people think that agriculture studies are only about transplanting, but it is far more than that,” he said.

“The sector is very broad. It includes agro-industry, agribusiness, agritourism and so on. Agriculture remains a core sector in sustaining the economic growth and food security of Cambodia,” he added.

He urged the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to research ways that farmers could improve their yields, saying that water conservation and increased technical skills were the key to achieving this.

“I encourage more research into the agricultural sector. The ministry should not only encourage people to grow crops or raise animals, but also motivate them to process their raw materials. They should work with their partners to establish associations that will strengthen farmers’ skills in cultivation, production and marketing,” he added.

In a recent report, agriculture minister Dith Tina said that from 1984 to 2022, the three national institutions had trained 30,354 people, 7,815 of them women. In the past four years, on average, the trio have provided training to more than 800 people a year for the agricultural sector.

“Of the 3,279 graduates from the three institutions that completed their majors in the past four years, more than 40 per cent were women,” said the report.

The figures included 301 associate degrees, 2,848 Bachelor’s degrees and 66 Master’s degrees. Of the 1,077 students who received scholarships, 46 per cent was female.

Bun Sieng, a 2000 RUA graduate who is now an agricultural specialist at local firm Natural Agriculture Village, said that during her studies she was usually one of just one or two female students in the classroom.

“Women are still under-represented in the field, but there are more and more female students graduating,” she said.

“I chose to study agriculture because I have a passion for it. Many women choose different subjects, perhaps because of their passion, or perhaps because they think of agriculture as involving long hours toiling outdoors,” she noted.

She pointed out that women play a major role in the agriculture sector across the Kingdom, especially in horticulture.