New Farming Techniques Boost Yields: Experts

Farm incomes nearly doubled, rice yield increased and agro-chemical use dropped by one-third for more than 14,000 farmers during a five-year program to improve farming techniques, government officials and agriculture leaders were told Thursday.

Monitored by the Asian Devel­op­ment Bank and implemented by local agriculture NGO Cedac, the program to improve the livelihoods of poor farmers in southern Cambodia started in May 2003 with $1.8 million from the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction.

The program targeted 14,200 farmers in the poorest 192 villages of Svay Rieng, Prey Veng, Kom­pong Cham, Kompong Chhnang and Takeo provinces, Cedac Executive Director Prak Sereyvath said.

The farmers were banded into vegetable-raising groups, pig-raising groups and chicken-raising groups, he said.

After teaching better techniques, such as fertilizing crops with compost and feeding livestock with protein-rich beans and the natural de-worming agent of lemongrass, the groups scaled up their farms and also banded into unions, which boosted trading power with middlemen.

As the program developed, the farmers reported an increased sense of ownership and motivation to boost their yields, Prak Ser­ey­vath said. The program also purchased 4,400 stoves, 1,300 water tanks and built roads, canals and fishing ponds in the participating communities, he added.

After five years, farmers’ rice yi­eld averaged at 3 tons per hectare, up from 2.4 tons per hectare, and annual agricultural income averaged at $650, up from $350 at the beginning of the initiative, Prak Sereyvath told participants at the workshop.

And the results will likely carry beyond the program itself, he added, as it required little manpower and left villagers with the knowledge and tools to continue on their own.

Villagers present at the workshop said the benefit from implementing the techniques learned in the program are too lucrative to give up.

“I make natural fertilizer taught by Cedac and I save money,” said Srun Sreang, 38, a rice farmer from Kompang Cham.

Srun Sreang said his rice yield is up, he spends less on chemical fertilizers and has now diversified into vegetables, chickens and pigs.

“We want the project to keep going. Other farmers will have a better standard of living if the project keeps going and reaches more provinces,” he said.

“This is one project that can in­crease economic growth,” Agri­culture Ministry Under­secretary of State Ith Nody said, while asking the Asian Develop­ment Bank to fund the program for five more years.

Increased agricultural productivity in the provinces will slow the annual migration of farmers into Phnom Penh, said Ith Nody, and also increase the national income and reduce poverty.

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