Conservation Agriculture and Sustainable Intensification Consortium (CASIC) hosted a field visit to introduce the concept of Conservation Agriculture (CA) and the potential of CA business to senior managers of 15 private companies in the agriculture sector. Presided over by, H.E. Om Kimsir, Secretary of State of Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) and Chairperson of CASIC Steering Committee, the visit took place at Bos Khnor Conservation Agriculture Research Station in Kampong Cham’s Chamka Leu district on September 30.
This field visit marked one of the first efforts of the Government to introduce large companies to Conservation Agriculture Production Systems (CAPS) in Cambodia. The proposal for the visit was made by Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) during a CASIC steering committee meeting in Phnom Penh on Agust 28. During the meeting, CASIC members, including the CCC and five other ministries, agreed that the involvement of their direct stakeholders in understanding CA would boost the scaling up of CA in Cambodia.
Speaking during the field visit, H.E. Kimsir said that the involvement of private sector in embracing enhanced agriculture technologies, practices and techniques is critical in boosting the development of the sector at large. “Conservation Agriculture is different from traditional agriculture because it requires modern technology such as machinery and cover crop. Without the participation of the private sector, there will not be any large-scale adoption. That is the reason why we invite the private sector to our research station today so they can witness our experts’ demonstration and prospect the future investment opportunity,” said H.E Kimsir.
For more than 16 years, Bos Khnor Conservation Agriculture Research Station, governed by the General Directorate of Agriculture (GDA)’s Department of Agriculture Land Resource Management (DARLM), has served as a hub for local and international researchers and development partners to conduct various researches and demonstrations to showcase the benefits and practicality of CAPS in the country. The activities in Bos Khnor has primilary been supported by CIRAD.
Mr. Sar Veng, DARLM’s Conservation Agriculture Service Centre (CASC) Project Coordinator, presented the three principles of CA which include minimal soil disturbance, permanent soil cover(crop residue or live mulch) and crop rotation or intercropping. He added that the practices would enhance biodiversity and natural biological processes above and below the ground surface, which contributes to increased water and nutrient use efficiency and improved and sustained crop production.
By 2015, about 12.5% of global cropland area was cultivated using conservation agriculture, mainly in South and North America, Australia,New Zealand and some countries in Asia. In Cambodia, CA has been practised on a marginalized share of cropland in Battambang, Kampong Cham and Kampong Thom on maize, rice and cassava staple crops, mostly through international development projects and initiatives. However, the business opportunity around CA is immense.
With about 3.5 million hectares of cropland that can be turned into CA farmland, it is estimated that there is a business potential of around US$ 1 billion in Cambodia lin CA crops and technologies. The commercialization for the crops and technologies will benefit everyone from agriculture technology and machinery companies, cover crop producing companies, extension service providers and smallholder farmers all over the country by providing more income and ensuring agro-ecological sustainability.
After gaining more knowledge about CA and CASIC activities in Cambodia, some private companies showed an interest in investing in technologies around CAPS. Mr. Chau Sol, Technical Manager of Rithy Granite Cambodia Co., Ltd, said that he never knew such technologies existed and his company depended a lot on traditional methods in farming such as chemical pesticide and ploughing machinery. “I am particularly interested in experimenting the cover crops and no-tillage in the company farms to see its effectiveness in reducing chemical fertilizers and pesticide. If feasible, we will scale up the operation.”
The agriculture sector shares around 20% of Cambodia’s total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2016, just behind the services and the industry sector at 39.6% and 33.1% respectively.