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Around 76.2 percent of the Cambodian population lives in the countryside and relies on agricultural livelihood activities, and in 2019, 34 percent of people were employed in agriculture. However, rural areas have seen a decreasing dependency on agricultural incomes and continuing out-migration to better-paying jobs than agriculture. This trend is expected to continue in the future in particular young farmers if agriculture is still not profitable for farmers and no on time actions and policies to support farmers effectively.

Covid-19 has contracted Cambodia economy of around 3.1 per cent in 2020 and still low in 2023, youth lost their cities jobs and back to home-land and looked for farming activities since then, however agriculture cannot attract youth to stay longer in agriculture because it is not profitable for smallholders to survive the family properly. According to UNDP Covid-19 would raise the poverty rate from 13.5% in 2014 to 16.6% in 2022, and it was estimated still high in 2023.

Unemployment would also increase to 4.8 percent and in debt of around 35%. The figures would have increased in 2022 and 2023 if Covid-19 and global inflation still exist without on time new – working strategies and new normal pathways to live with Covid-19, global inflation and climate change, especially farmers with small scale farms which it is important to ensure the relevance between commodities, farmers’ organizations & agricultural cooperatives and market value chain actors now and in the future to have strong linkages amongst the threes to interact growth of sustainable agriculture, sustainable food systems and improved livelihoods of the rural people. Cambodia has around 4.3 mill ha of cultivated land.

The agriculture sector in Cambodia is dominated by smallholders live in rural areas, they still depend much on rain-fed for agricultural production. Farmers are aging and they are very limited use of modern inputs and technologies, therefore encouraging youth in agriculture is needed. The major crops including paddy rice, maize, cassava, sugar cane, vegetables, peanuts, soybeans, cashew-nuts, jute, tobacco and rubber (EuroCham Cambodia, 2020). Approximately, 70 percent of Cambodia’s cultivated areas remain dominated by rice, followed by the sub-sectors of industrial crops (20 percent), rubber plantations (7 percent) and permanent crops (4 percent) (ADB, 2020).

Climate in Cambodia is characterized by a rainy season from May to October and a dry season from November to April, now it has changed base on our actual observation. The country is always brown from November to May. Some areas, especially those topographies are relatively Plain zone with drought, Tonle Sap lake zone with flood, Coastal zone and Mekong floodplain and Plateau zone with soil erosion, degradation, deforestation, loss of biodiversity and affecting to the daily lives and livelihoods of the rural community people accordingly in the last two decades. Agriculture is the predominant economic activity, representing the vast majority of the population of about 80% live depend on agriculture to survive their family, most of them are smallholder family farmers and the country remains more rural society.

Agricultural practices of smallholder farmers use more traditional methods and output is lower while smallholder family farmers are facing many problems additionally to current issues of climate change, global insecurity, increased input prices and global inflation while the prices of agricultural products are low without regular markets that cannot attract youth to work in agriculture and always cause migration of young farmers to find jobs in the cities and non-agriculture, though youth turn back home due effects of Covis-19 from 2020 till 2022, however in 2023 most youth migrated to find jobs in the city again. Generally living conditions in rural communities are difficult with fragile family economy and it is easy to fall into debt when someone as a member of the family fall into ill.

Due farm incomes are low and the productions cost are high, therefore smallholders are not profitable and do not want to stay in agriculture which it is required all of us urgently to find better ways to engage among the farmers, farmers’ organizations/agricultural cooperatives and market value chain actors as well as other related actors including development agencies to work together to tackle the issues on markets for farmers now. In order to ensure the working structure function well therefore capacity building is necessarily needed for farmers.

Paddy rice, maize, cassava, sugar cane, vegetables, peanuts, soybeans, cashew nuts, jute, tobacco and rubber (EuroCham Cambodia, 2020 and ADP 2021-2030). Followed by banana, mango, sesame, pepper, pineapple, coffee, fish, silk, longan, poultries, livestock and many other crops. All these commodities produce by smallholders in rural Cambodia. To have engaged the commodities to market effectively it really needs to connect with relevant actors in the value chains.

Though Cambodia is agricultural country, but cooperative businesses at sub-national agricultural cooperatives are still very small. The capital is ranging from 4,000,000 Riels or USD 1,000 to 1,200,000,000 Riels or USD 300,000.00 per cooperative. The businesses at the agricultural cooperatives are multiple and very limited to sustain the organizations in term of self-financing in a short-term period. The current businesses are: – small agri-credit services, collective sales and purchases from farmer members and vice versa, inputs sales to farmer members, and.

Because most of agricultural cooperatives in Cambodia have very limited capital to conduct such activities on market value chains for instance the organization of a multi stakeholder platform meeting/event, communication with trader, organize a B2B meeting, organize a T2T meeting and so on aimed to engage farming in businesses, therefore farmer associations and agricultural cooperatives in Cambodia still needed external funding support to work on the above areas to minimize gap between farmers and companies and relevant actors. CFAP through funding support from IFAD 2018 – 2022 and also funding support under APAP-FO4A in 2023 has provided coordination services and supporting some members on business action plan development and advisory support on business planning aimed to engage farmers and companies to collaborate for sales and purchases collectively with both contract agreements and verbal agreements.

Contract agreements between farmers and collection centers as well as companies have signed accordingly for sale and purchases and vice versa. Nevertheless, there is still a lack of well and mutual interaction between actors in the value chain due to various reasons on current context in particular climate change, Covid-19 and impacts of global agricultural inflation. The Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) has a policy to export milled rice of one million tons annually since 2015, however this policy has not been achieved so far. Only about 700,000tons of milled rice exported in 2023.

Multi stakeholder in the VC:

Though there are good connection amongst farmers, farmers’ organizations and market value chain actors, there are still limited resource persons and capital at all levels to accelerate businesses. Farmers and farmers’ organizations/agricultural cooperatives in Cambodia for instance the opportunities for agriculture in Covid-19, farmers and farmers’ organizations still have very limited capacity to take the opportunities to get access to direct supplies and or exports the products by ourselves.

We still depend much on traders and or big companies to take a role of exports. “It is the fact that when farmers and farmers’ organizations/agricultural cooperatives cannot reach direct consumers, big companies and or export level, farmers lose values, and in turn smallholders are not profitable and sustainable.

In general farmers face challenges on (1). limited understanding about the added value of farmer associations and agricultural cooperatives by the public, (2). members at agroforestry coverage areas cannot generate incomes properly from the forest fruit trees in a regeneration of environmental systems, (3). existing policies are not functioning well to support farmers and farming communities at ground level, (4). natural resources, biodiversity, lake, river, seas and forestry areas have affected by land crabbing and land concession for big companies and urbanization that affected to the farmers and the farming communities, (5). farmer associations and agricultural cooperatives are still weak in term of finance, self-financing and (6). farmers and leaders of associations and agricultural cooperatives are aging.

To ensure the sustainable relevance amongst stakeholders, therefore we would recommend as follow: –

1. Provide higher education and or specific related vocation training for the rural youth and farmer leaders to ensure that they have capacity to speak freely at a higher level with policy makers in the future.
2. Building partnership between farmers’ organizations/agricultural cooperatives with relevant stakeholders such as private sector, development partners and government.
3. Enable farmers access to direct finance.
4. Accelerate the functioning of relevant existing policies and new policy development on agro-ecology and environment to be more resilient.
5. Strengthen the engagement of farming in businesses.
6. Stories of farmers, farmers’ associations and agricultural cooperatives should be heard to the public through media broadly.