A unique EU-funded project designed to train farmers, develop organic methods of
agriculture, set up a co-operative and establish a distribution and marketing network
for agricultural products was launched on August 1 in Kampong Speu.
The Asia Urban Project (Asia Urbs) aims to improve the living standards of poor farmers
on the outskirts of Kampong Speu city, 50km outside Phnom Penh
It's immediate success lies in developing a high quality product that is organic-grown
without the use of chemicals, fertilizers or pesticides-that can supply Phnom Penh's
five-star vegetable market comprised of large hotels, restaurants and supermarkets.
"If I go to the Royale Hotel with my product they will let me in but for a Khmer
farmer the door is not open. That is why we need this program," said Michel
Marty, Phnom Penh's "vegetable king" and now co-ordinator of the project.
His company, M&M's Products Co. Ltd, has over the past five years been the only
local supplier of organic vegetables in the country from its Kampong Speu farm.
Asia Urbs is envisaged as a two year partnership administered by the cities of Kampong
Speu, Gembloux in Belgium and Epinal in France, as well as the Belgian NGO, Aid and
Development Gembloux (ADG) and a Cambodian NGO, Cambodian Women for Peace and Development
"Our vision is to alleviate poverty and we want to promote women's interests.
The project promotes the livelihood of farmers. In rural areas, women play the key
role of farmers. Why? Because they are always at home," said Chou Bun Eng, executive
director of CWPD. "Kampong Speu is one of the poorest provinces and they have
no techniques to promote their products. It is the right time to start."
Technical expertise and technology transfer will come from CIRAD, a French Research
and Development Centre which specializes in tropical and subtropical agronomy and
the Agronomy Faculty of Gembloux University.
Sixty-five percent of the funding required, around half a million dollars, has been
provided by the European Union. The remainder has come from the partners. Land to
build the co-operative was donated by the Kampong Speu provincial government.
"We have the luck to be on virgin land. Let's start clean, growing organically
from the beginning. In ten years, when demand for organic products grows we will
be ready to export, " said Marty, whose connection to CIRAD stems from a chance
meeting with officials at a Parisian trade fair in 1996. A relationship was struck
and seed research was carried out at his farm on the banks of the Preak Knot River
which now, along with a pilot farm that Marty has established, is being used as the
project's training base for local farmers.
"As well as farming we need to focus on marketing and distribution ...otherwise
it can't work. This is the reason why farmers have so many problems. They have to
market the goods but they don't have the knowledge to do that," he said.
The involvement of an internationally recognised French government agency like CIRAD
means that the product's source is traceable and an international standard of quality
guarantied. The project's partners hope this will open up the markets of Taiwan,
Singapore and Japan, countries that reject some Vietnamese and Thai agricultural
exports because of their chemical intensive farming methods.
Many of the farmers that work the land in Kampong Speu and that are involved with
the project are former Khmer Rouge fighters.
The dam on the Preak Knot River that provides irrigation to the area, built by Japan
and Australia between 1970 and 1974, is still partially collapsed after the Khmer
Rouge tried to destroy it.