A programme promoting a new agricultural technology that assists with mitigating the effects of climate change has served 144,000 families throughout the country since the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries launched it in 2015.
Under the programme, farmers learn how to grow vegetables in net-houses, which are similar to greenhouses in purpose in that they protect plants. But they are low cost and easy to set up, take down and transport.
Net-houses are not temperature controlled and use simple netting instead of glass panels, mainly for the purposes of keeping pests away from the farmer’s crops while also providing shade for plants that require it.
Agriculture minister Veng Sakhon told The Post that the programme was an important part of both short and long-term planning for the ministry.
“This project has been an effective means to practically implement the government’s strategic plan for agriculture in the medium to long term. It has been a big help in the drive towards modernisation of the agricultural sector in Cambodia and it does it inclusively [by allowing a large number of participants] while keeping prices competitive [by using low cost technology].
“It puts a focus on the importance of adapting [agricultural methods] to climate change in a sustainable way,” he said.
Seang Vanseth, director of the Banteay Meanchey provincial Department of Agriculture, told The Post that over the last few years Cambodia has been experiencing the effects of climate change, such as higher average temperatures and unusually severe flooding, and so the ministry has now extended this programme across the country.
“The programme trains farmers in the use of net-houses to grow vegetables and I believe we’ll see widespread use of this technique by our farmers,” he said.
He explained that growing vegetables in net-houses required far less water than it otherwise would and it controls pests without the use of pesticides.
“This technique has even been used to grow rice with less water, using rice seeding machines,” he said.
For the purposes of the programme, farmers were formed into groups according to what crops they were to grow. One group might be growing rice, cassava and other vegetables while another could be raising fish or chickens. The ministry then assists the farmers in finding buyers for their produce and negotiating fair prices.
“We find customers and set up a meeting between them and the groups of farmers to negotiate on prices for export or for sale at the market,” he said.
Vanseth told The Post that in Banteay Meanchey province – from 2019 until now – there have been 65 groups of farmers. Each group was comprised of 30 to 50 members who were all participating in the ministry’s programme.
Chheng Bo, a farmer from M’lou Prey I commune in Preah Vihear province’s Chheb district, implemented the programme after receiving training from specialists. He said the techniques really worked and enabled farmers to grow crops during the dry and rainy seasons. The project had generated decent income for them to provide for their families.
“In the past, when we grew crops outdoors without any covering, the crops suffered from the heat and from pests and we didn’t make much money. The nets that the ministry taught us how to use make a big difference and we can make a good income this way,” he said.