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Cambodia’s untapped farming potential

Cambodia’s untapped farming potential

A FEW weeks ago, Oxfam released one of the most crucial and ambitious international programs in its history.

The GROW campaign, for a world without hunger, has been described by no less a person than Archbishop Emeritus and Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu as a campaign “not based on the         utopian musings of do-gooders        and daydreamers”.

“It is a very real plan based on the real achievements of forward- thinking governments, companies and communities,” Tutu said.

Among its roles and aims in Cambodia, Oxfam strives to help the poor access and manage their natural resources and encourage activities aimed at empowering women and fund activities to that end.

Those two aims may come together in Cambodia, according to Oxfam GB executive director Dame Barbara Stocking, who visited the Kingdom last month and inspected field projects in Kampong Thom.

“It is the time,” Stocking said, “to focus on the huge untapped potential of small-scale farmers in developing countries – especially women, who often do most of the work for little reward.”

She said there was a need for more small-farm production and investment in small farmers, as well as everything from roads to water and infrastructure for that production, as well as a need to get farmers organised.

“They need much better marketing knowledge and business skills,” she said, adding that Oxfam was “very committed to the role of women farmers, from those of the households to small farmers”.

Oxfam works with partners to maximise sustainable food production and income through improved agriculture technologies and techniques that respect indigenous knowledge, along with better access to markets.

The world-wide organisation believes donors, international organisations and national governments must prioritise the needs of small-scale food producers in developing countries, where the major gains in productivity, sustainable intensification and poverty reduction can be achieved.

Oxfam also says that this particularly applies to women farmers, who in many countries grow most of the food, yet are largely excluded from support from the agricultural system.

Companies, it says, must embrace the opportunities provided by smallholder agriculture and national governments must invest more in agriculture, while carefully regulating private investment in land and water to ensure secure access for those living in poverty.