The UN Food and Agriculture Organization has signed a $335,000 grant to help Cambodia improve agricultural techniques to ensure a secure food supply.
The FAO will provide technical assistance to the Ministry of Agriculture until the year 2000 for pilot programs in at least four provinces. The sites were selected in March 1997, and water management and farming demonstrations have been held since last fall.
Ad Spijkers, the organization’s Cambodia representative, said Wednesday the pilot programs are designed to show “food security is possible through a combination of technology and a small investment.”
Food security has been identified by the government as a top priority. Although agriculture contributes almost 50 percent of Cambodia’s gross domestic product, productivity is low and remains vulnerable to weather conditions, according to the FAO.
During the pilot phase, which usually runs at least two years, farmers are introduced to new technologies. The pilot projects in Cambodia will focus on improving irrigation, seed fertility, pest management, and livestock and aquaculture production, according to the FAO.
The programs are in seven locations in the provinces of Kompong Cham, Kampot, Siem Reap and Takeo. Spijkers said that a project also might start this rainy season in Battambang province.
Spijkers said Cambodia is on the forefront with Asian countries like Nepal, China and Papua New Guinea of an FAO food security program launched in 1995.
He said colleagues claim that progress already has been made at the sites, especially at a Kampot irrigation project. Some preliminary results will be documented in about a month, he said.
Chhea Song, secretary of state for Agriculture, has talked often of the need to ensure food security in Cambodia by increasing rice production. Cambodia produced its first rice surplus in 20 years during the 1995-96 growing season. Production was hampered last year by flooding and drought.