Cassava is the second largest crop produced in Cambodia and is a major export to Vietnam, Thailand, and China. It is grown by smallholder farmers, especially in upland areas, because it is a drought tolerant crop and has varied uses including as animal feed, a source of starch, and in the production of ethanol. However, in recent years growing demand has led to overproduction which has decreased soil fertility, resulting in a lower yield per hectare.
IIRR worked in collaboration with GIZ on the Regional Economic Development Program (RED IV) to offer training and support for cassava farmers in the area of sustainable cassava cultivation techniques. In consultation with the Provincial Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (PDAFF), and the District Agriculture Office (DAO), training promotions and training deliveries were designed to disseminate techniques and follow-up visits for coaching were conducted to help farmers incorporate the techniques into their agricultural practices.
Upon completion of the program in December 2019, IIRR had organized 91 training sessions with a total of 1,571 participants, 57% of whom were women. The participants came from 71 villages across 24 communes of 7 districts in the Banteay Meanchey, Oddar Meanchey, and Preah Vihear provinces. Topics of the training included good criteria for seedling selection, Integrated Pest Management (IPM), basal fertilizer application, and soil fertility improvement. The training team then conducted follow-up visits for demo farmers, at least two visits per month, to provide additional technical advice and discuss potential solutions to problems as they arose. Follow-up visits found that 80% of farmers trained through the program applied the major sustainable cassava planting techniques they had learned.
During follow-up visits, IIRR also helped farmers to create farm record books in which input costs were noted. Conventionally, farmers do not record their farm input costs which makes it difficult for them to set the price of their product and often results in farmers selling their produce without profit. Through the record books and training by IIRR, farmers kept track of production costs including expense of inputs, labor force, and other materials and thus were able to place fair prices on their products.
Ms. Moun Am was one of the 1,571 farmers trained through the RED IV program. In 2017, before learning of the program, her income from her cassava plantation was US$666/hectare. She only earned enough to cover her expenses. After receiving training through the program, she decided to incorporate the techniques she had learned on 1.2 hectares of land. In 2018, the increased yields from the new techniques resulted in her income increasing to US$2,000/hectare. She was able to sell her surplus produce to other farmers and used the profits to not only purchase a tractor for her land, but also cover the wedding expenses for two of her children. In 2019, at the time of program completion, she had expanded cassava production to 5 hectares and had incorporated drip irrigation systems into her farming practices.