The development of CA in Cambodia has been benefited from the technical and financial support from various development projects and programs with particular institutional support and commitment from the RGC through the MAFF since the commencement of the design and testing of CA-based cropping in different agroecological systems in Cambodia in 2004 (referring to the project documents and Kong et al, 2020).
With reference to an indicative timeline of CA development, presented below, the first CA-related research activities started in 2004 as part of the Crop Diversification and Smallholder Rubber Development Project (SRDP) Phase 2, funded by the French Agency for Development (AFD) and implemented by the General Directorate of Rubber of MAFF in partnership with the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD). Since then, Cambodia has capacitated necessary human resources with CA technical knowledge and experiences through the experiments and testing of cropping systems of upland annual crops as well as the development of a cover crop genetic bank leading to the start of crop genetic conservation in Bos Khnor commune, Chamkar Leu district, Kampong Cham province.
Figure 1: Indicative Timeline of CA and SI Development in Cambodia
From 2008, CA was implemented by the General Directorate of Agriculture (GDA) under the AFD-funded 5-year PADAC project (Projet d’Amélioration de l’Agriculture Cambodgienne) with technical support from CIRAD. The main target areas were in Kampong Cham and Battambang provinces with focus on design, promotion and assessment of CA-based cropping systems for annual crop production in both upland and lowland areas. In addition, some other activities were also implemented in Battambang under the Sustainable Agricultural and Natural Resources Management - Collaborative Research Support Program (SANREM-CSRP) funded by United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in 2010-2014 under the partnership between Department of Agricultural Land Resources Management (DALRM) of GDA, CIRAD and North Carolina Agriculture and Technology State University (NC A&T). In 2009, long-term experiments have been implemented and research studies on soil organic C initiated at the Bos Khnor Station under the Multi-country Agroecology Action Program (PAMPA) funded by AFD.
Following the assessment of institutional arrangement at the end of PADAC project, the Conservation Agriculture Service Center (CASC) was established in 2014 as a unit of DALRM and with the support of CIRAD. In 2016, GDA provided to DALRM an area of 14.5 hectares located in Chamkar Leu Upland Crop Seed Production Station in Chamkar Leu district, Kampong Cham province. This parcel of land, widely known as Bos Khnor Conservation Agriculture Research Station since 2016, has been used for CA-related research, training and the maintenance of a genetic bank of staple and cover crops that is unique in Cambodia. Since 2014, CASC has extended its CA-related services (including no-till planters) to rice, maize and casava farmers in Battambang province.
In 2016, the Sustainable Intensification Innovation Lab (SIIL) funded by USAID and coordinated by Kansas State University (KSU), supported the cooperation between different projects (Appropriate-scale Mechanization Consortium – ASMC, and Women in Agriculture Network – WAgN) and contributed to the establishment of the Center of Excellence for Sustainable Agricultural Intensification and Nutrition (CE SAIN) at the Royal University of Agriculture (RUA), aiming at extending CA and SI in different agroecosystems of the country.
Established in July 2016, CE SAIN aims to improve food and nutritional security in Cambodia by supporting agricultural research and education and promoting innovation. It works closely with RUA to improve skills and knowledge of public sector agricultural workers and to foster growth in the private sector. CE SAIN also provides coordination support to the Feed the Future Innovation Labs, USAID/Cambodia’s implementing partners, and other government, donor, and private sector programs. CE SAIN established five Technology Parks including the support to the Bos Khnor Station.
ASMC with the support of the USAID under the Feed the Future program was initiated in 2016 on a research study on design and development of machinery prototype seed planters for farmers, under the management of RUA in partnership with Department of Agricultural Engineering (DAEng), DALRM/CASC and CIRAD. The overall objective of the project is to intensify smallholder farmers' cropping systems and on-farm operations through mechanization in a sustainable manner.
On the other hand, WAgN Cambodia project aims to empower women and improve nutrition by promoting women’s participation in SI-based horticulture and rice value chains. To achieve this end, the project targets to improve socioeconomic and nutritional status of women and their families, and to identify and strengthen existing and potential SI technologies, practices and policies that promote production of nutritious and marketable food while protecting agroecological resources.
In addition, other projects contributing to CA and agroecology promotion in Cambodia included Towards Agroecological Transition in South-East Asia (ACTAE) funded by AFD in 2015-2018 and Ecological Intensification and Soil Ecosystem Functioning (EISOFUN) under United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and Cambodia Climate Change Alliance (CCCA) in 2016-2018.
Apart from these initiatives and projects, the Centre for Sustainable Agricultural Mechanization (CSAM), a regional institution of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), in partnership with GDA and other partners, organized an Asia and Pacific regional workshop in 2018 and another regional training in 2019 on topics related to mechanization in CA. The regional trainings in 2019 which gathered over 37 participants from 18 countries in the Asia-Pacific region and initiated the identification of needs for future trainings to be offered by DALRM/CASC and its partners taking advantage of the long history of Bos Khnor Station.
Over the course of CA & SI and agroecological development towards a sustainable outlook, it is crucial to engage private sector actors along the agriculture value chains in providing technologies, inputs, operation know-how and access to finance in order to support the transition process of farmers in addition to the services already offered by DALRM/CASC. Therefore, Conservation Agriculture Services with a Fee (CASF) funded by USAID and implemented by CE SAIN in partnership with DAEng, DALRM/CASC, CIRAD and Swisscontact in 2018-2021, together with Mekong Inclusive Growth and Innovation Program (MIGIP) funded by Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and implemented by Swisscontact since 2017, have facilitated the engagement of private sector and contributed to the commercialization of CA-related machinery and cover crop seed production.
Furthermore, Water Resources Management and Agro-ecological Transition for Cambodia (WAT4CAM) is a four-year (2020-2024) project funded by AFD and EU, aiming to upgrade irrigation infrastructure and to support innovative, climate-friendly farming in five provinces. One of its four component focuses on innovative farming practices and rice value chain, which is managed by MAFF and GDA. Under this agriculture component, one sub-component focuses on Research for Development (R4D) on agroecology, led by CIRAD. The R4D sub-component aims to explore new methods of interventions and cropping systems that match with the principles of agroecology for irrigated rice.
Most importantly, CA and SI relevant projects and programs stakeholders discussed and initiated in 2018 the establishment of Cambodia Conservation Agriculture and Sustainable Intensification Consortium (CASIC) which was endorsed by the Minister of MAFF and officially launched in mid-2020. Detailed profile and structure of CASIC will be presented in Section 4.
At the regional level, Cambodia has been active in a number of regional platforms and initiatives including Agroecology for Southeast Asia (ASEA), CSAM of United Nations ESCAP, and Agroecology Learning alliance in South East Asia (ALiSEA). Most recently, the European Union (EU) and AFD have funded the Agroecology and Safe food System Transitions (ASSET) in four Southeast Asian countries including Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam in 2020-2025. ASSET is a project co-implemented by GRET and CIRAD under the partnership with a number of local organizations, including, in Cambodia, Institute of Technology of Cambodia (ITC), DALRM of GDA/MAFF, Swisscontact, UNI4Coop, and CIRAD. The main objective of ASSET is to “harness the potential of agroecology in Southeast Asia to transform food and agricultural systems into more sustainable systems, notably safer and inclusive” (ASSET project information).
Formerly known as Conservation Agriculture Network in Southeast Asia, covering 8 countries including Cambodia; for more information, visit www.cansea.org.vn and https://www.cirad.fr/en/our-research/platforms-in-partnership-for-research-and-training/list-of-platforms/asea.
Represented by DAEng of GDA/MAFF; for more information, visit http://www.un-csam.org.
Covering 4 countries including Cambodia; for more information, visit https://ali-sea.org.