Farmers from across several provinces used the occasion of the Ministry of Economy and Finance’s Social Protection Week forum to call for smallholder farmers to be integrated into the national social protection system.

Nhel Pheap, a senior community coordination officer at the Cambodian Farmer Community Coalition Association, said that their Social Protection Week campaign have been held from February 13 to 15.

The campaign calls on the government to support smallholder farmers through inclusive social protection that meets their needs. In particular, it wants farmers to have access to social assistance programs and the National Social Security Fund (NSSF).

“We all know that farmers have an important role to play in society. They supply food to the people of the Kingdom. It is unfortunate that better protection is not provided by the society they provide for, said Pheap.

“One of the biggest challenges they face is that their income is irregular. Some days they may earn well, and some days they may earn nothing. Therefore, the government should treat small farmers like business people in the informal economy and allow them to receive social protection services from the state,” he added.

He said farmers also pay taxes, so ought to be eligible for pensions. In addition, they are all too often the victims of natural disasters like flooding or droughts.

Social Protection Week 2023 organised on February 13. Heng Chivoan

He said that the campaign was active in the 14 towns and provinces where the association operates.

Khieu Saron, a representative of the Samaki Romeas Hek community in Svay Rieng province, said she hoped the campaign would encourage the government to consider including small farmers in the national social protection policy framework.

“We only want the government to support and protect the farmers in the same way they do for other ‘informal’ workers who do not receive a steady salary,” she added.

Several civil society organisations have called for the government to accelerate the implementation of the NSFF for informal workers.

The finance ministry organised this year’s Social Protection Week forum to strengthen the efficiency and transparency of social protection systems. Campaigns to improve public awareness of the assistance that is available also ran during the week.