The Agriculture Livelihoods project will train hundreds of farmers from Stung Treng and Prey Veng provinces in effective agricultural practices over the next few years. We focus on helping rural farmers attain a sustainable income and secure food sources. The typical farming family owns an adequate plot of land for producing crops and livestock sustainably. In spite of this, many rural farming families still live on or below the poverty line, struggling to provide enough income for food security, education and other necessities. This is largely due to the lack of knowledge about advanced farming techniques, combined with the underuse of resources. Many rural farmers also remain uneducated about
basic business practices and do not know how to improve their situation through shared skills and resources.
All of these factors mean rural farmers are often taken advantage of by middlemen, who pay next to nothing for produce, taking the greater percentage of the profits for themselves before selling on to the processing factories and retail companies. It is the belief of AOC that these small but numerous injustices can be addressed, by empowering local farmers with knowledge and better practices. This way, the agricultural sector does not have to lend itself to poor economic outcomes for its workers, and in fact, the potential for mutual prosperity is great.
On our 14.8 acre model farm in Stung Treng, we trial new and innovative techniques that will be successful in the Cambodian context. These new farming methods could range from hydroponics to intensive fish farming, bee keeping, mushroom farming, organic farming, livestock husbandry to a diverse range of high-value cropping options like cut flowers, herbs and spices, and a wide range of fruit and vegetables.
The model farm and training centre will be a hub for teaching local farmers improved technologies and practices in Stung Treng. However, AOC has already been training local farmers in Prey Veng province for some time, and has had great success with its courses in animal raising, crop planting, vegetable gardening, and organic farming. Improved practices lead to better financial outcomes for rural farmers.
An important part of the project strategy is to facilitate the formation of locally based farmer support groups, alongside the training sessions. The support groups usually contain five peers, which ensure farmers retain knowledge from training much better, and are motivated to help each other through difficult issues. It is a sustainability measure that helps prolong the benefits of the project long after AOC leaves.
Part of the training course is to teach participants about how to utilise the resources around them to create cheap, effective fertilisers and pesticides, that are not sourced from chemicals. The use of chemicals is widespread in Cambodia’s agricultural industry and the harmful effects are already being recognised. With locally sourced inputs, farmers can save money, while sustainably growing organic crops.
AOC Agriculture project team members take time to regularly visit and mentor each loan recipient, to help ensure they are successfully growing their business and to help with any issues. Tracking the progress of new crops and monitoring farmers though the process of using new technologies is essential for long-term sustainability. AOC mentors these beneficiaries for one year.
Cheav Cheak is a hard-working 44 year-old rice, vegetable, fruit and pig farmer. He owns a 20 x 130 meter block in Kampong Prang, Prey Veng province. He has a wife and four children. His wife, Kon Leang Hak, sells vegetables they grow at a local shop.
He has farmed mangoes on his block of land for eight years. Mangoes are profitable and he made about USD $600 a year from them. About six years ago, he moved his house to another property down the road and kept the block of land for growing mangoes. Where his house used to be, there was only long grass, with almost half of the block unused.
In May of 2013, he joined AOC’s agricultural training. He had heard about it from other farmers who had gone through the training and was curious to join. He learnt all about up-to-date agricultural techniques, including integrated farming, making natural pesticides and fertiliser, and organic home vegetable gardening.
He started growing beans, peppers, eggplants and other vegetables according to the season. His wife began to sell their own vegetables at a local store. Cheak and Leang Hak’s vegetables are becoming increasingly popular, as locals realise they are chemical-free and therefore more healthy.
Now Cheak uses all his land, and to its best potential. He now can double the monthly income from his land, at around USD $1080, providing both nutritious food for his family and greater income security. As long as he works hard on his land and does not experience disaster, he will not have to worry about providing for his family and their education.
Today Cheak is a group leader for the agricultural training and he will continue to support and learn from the project.