Area City

181,035Km2 Phnom Penh

Organic Agriculture in Cambodia-Country Report


1. ORGANIC AGRICULTURE IN CAMBODIA 1.1 Organic sector The organic sector in Cambodia is extremely small. There are some interesting beginnings, but no well-established initiatives, also not for the export market. No organizations from Cambodia are registered as member of IFOAM or on other organic information websites, such as the GTZ website. The NGO CEDAC has probably the most experience in terms of organic production techniques. It has for a long time been working on composting, organic cultivation techniques, etc. However, this organization also has no activities on marketing yet, although under their new strategic plan it is planning to focus more on the development of producer - local market linkages for organic products. Most of the other organizations such as Asia Urbs and Agrisud, are focusing more on the development of pesticide-free or low- pesticide production. Asia Urbs initially encouraged some farmers to grow organic vegetables, but these farmers stopped because yield and quality were not good. Srer Khmer’s original idea was also to focus on pesticide-free production, but it is now more firmly committing itself to the development of organic production and local marketing by facilitating the link between growers and interested consumers. It is interesting to note here that in 2002 the Danida IPM Programme started an "Organic Forum" in order to create more awareness among different organizations of organic agriculture and to exchange practical experiences. Due to the limited number of organizations with practical experience and technical knowledge in organic agriculture, most participants come to the meetings "to learn" and there is not much practical exchange. However, with the development of more organic projects, the usefulness of this forum will gradually increase. 1.2. The Production Side: Farmer perspective Based on the information collected from farmers, it became very clear that there is a great interest among farmers to produce pesticide-free or organic vegetables. Many farmers are very concerned about the health risks of pesticides, for both themselves as well as the consumers. The main concern of the farmers met was that they are not sure about the market and therefore hesitant to change their current production methods. Whether this would be a conversion to organic or pesticide-free production would be up to the consumers. For a successful conversion to organic farmers would therefore need support in marketing and consumers need to be educated about the strong and weak sides of organic production. For the organic marketing programme to be interesting, it is essential to offer the consumers a range of products that is large and interesting enough. This could be difficult for many farmer groups. As usual practice farmers only grow 2-3 kinds of vegetables during a season and often have only one vegetables growing season per year. To overcome this problem, one organization could coordinate the sales of different groups and this is what Srer Khmer intends to do. Some farmer groups had completely converted their farms to organic production. These groups sell its products to Srer Khmer for its set box scheme. Group members observed that the quality of the produce was lower than in conventional production, but that their total income was still better because of the higher price they could obtain for their organic vegetables. For example, they sell yard-long bean for 2000-3000 Riel/kg compared to neighboring conventional farmers sell only 800 Riel/kg. It was also very interesting to note that these groups were able to produce 11-12 kinds of vegetables during one season, while their conventional neighbors were growing only three types.

Organic Agriculture in Cambodia-Country Report


When farmers convert to organic, it is expected that, particularly in the beginning stage, they would face many problems with pests and diseases. It is the experience of many organic vegetables growers that pest and disease problems over a period of 2-3 seasons gradually decrease, but that a few pests and diseases could remain of importance. From our discussions with farmers in Cambodia, flea beetles, DBM and Bacterial Wilt in tomatoes would be the key pests and diseases. Although the FAO Vegetables IPM Programme has made great contributions in this area, there are currently no fully reliable non-chemical control measures for these pests and diseases available. It would therefore be of great importance to the development of the organic vegetables sector, not only in Cambodia but also elsewhere in the region, when the FAO Vegetables IPM Programme could make the means available for more action research to study the biology and ecology of these pests and diseases and to develop or improve non-chemical control methods available for these problems. Other important technical areas related to organic vegetables production are organic fertilizers and seeds. Compost is an essential input for organic vegetables production and farmers have to make sure that they apply enough to produce good crop yields. The farmers admitted that one reason for their lower yields is the insufficient amount of compost applied. Farmers could reduce their costs of production quite a lot when all ingredients for the compost can be obtained locally. This definitely seems a possibility in most of the places that farmers implemented organic farming. When significant amounts of certain ingredients have to be bought-in regularly, the organic production system may not be very sustainable in the long-term. An additional concern would be that it is difficult for farmers to verify the quality of the boughtin materials and whether these materials comply with organic standards. For example, some standards only, allow the use of manure from free-range chicken and not from chicken from the "bio-industry". Concerning seeds, it is important that farmers do not only have good quality seeds but also that the supply of these seeds is reliable. For example, the farmer group in Kandal province had many virus-like problems in many of their crops. They thought that this could have been cause by the low quality of the seed available at the local stores. For all technical inputs, such as bio-pesticides, seeds, and ingredients for compost making, Srer Khmer should take up the role of providing these to the farmers it is cooperating with in its new Khmer Organics programme. It would be easier for Srer Khmer to find certain inputs and verify their quality and maybe also to negotiate price reductions if inputs are bought in larger quantities. Srer Khmer is also planning to set up an Internal Control System (ICS) for its Khmer Organics programme. Normally in an ICS, it is the responsibility of the ICS coordinator to organize such things as extension activities and inputs supplies. Therefore, the need for Srer Khmer to provide such services to its supplying farmers would fit well with its "obligations” under the ICS. 1.3. The Demand Side: Restaurants, Markets, Individual Consumers In general, vegetables in the Phnom Penh (capital city) and Siem Reap (tourist town) areas come from three sources: Local production, in the case of Phnom Penh mainly from Kandal and Kampong Speu provinces; Imports from southern Vietnam (by boat or truck) and Imports from Thailand (by truck).

Organic Agriculture in Cambodia-Country Report


According to the commercially buying vegetables (for example, people selling vegetables at markets or buying vegetables for restaurants or hotels), the concern for pesticide residues in the vegetables was not very high. In almost all cases, it was said that appearance and price of the vegetables were most important. This was also confirmed in the interviews with the farmers with regards to the preference of the middlemen buying produce from the farmers. In some cases, middlemen even request the farmers to apply more pesticides just before buying such as a protection against pests and diseases in the few days before the middlemen come to pick up the vegetables. The farmers know that these applications are useless and could pose a health risks to the consumers, but they do not dare to argue with the middlemen out of fear that the middlemen will then reduce the price. In the words of one farmer: "If it's up to the middlemen, then all consumers would be dead by now." However, some people took measures to minimize the risk of pesticides in the vegetables they were buying. One "strategy" is to buy mostly locally produced vegetables, because it was thought that these vegetables would contain less pesticides then vegetables from Vietnam and particularly Thailand. This is quite a dangerous assumption seen the attitude of many middlemen (see the paragraph above). Data from the vegetables IPM programme in Cambodia also show that many vegetables producers use pesticides very often. The pesticides used are also generally belonging to the most toxic pesticide groups and cocktails of extremely hazardous pesticides, in some cases up to 12 types. In general, it can be said that the awareness of the commercial buyers of pesticide risks is very low. The issue of pesticides and health risks is not an issue taken up by the local Cambodian media and there are also no NGOs working on general awareness campaigns. For many people it is not that they are not concerned, they often simply do not know. A targeted campaign on pesticide issues would be a good element of the marketing strategy for an organic vegetables programme in Cambodia. There are two good reasons for such a campaign. The first is that it is simply time for more information about the risks of pesticides. The second is more a strategic reason for the organic programme: the more negative publicity for pesticides the better for the sales of pesticide-free or organic products. For organic programmes, when only promoting the good aspects of organic products it is often like preaching to people who are already converted and the larger public does not feel concerned. However, when emphasizing the negative aspects of conventional agriculture more people feel addressed. Individual buyers, such as the members of Srer Khmer's box scheme, are more concerned about pesticides and they purposely buy Srer Khmer's vegetables because of them being pesticide-free. The number of these subscribers to the box scheme could be increased to around 40-50 it would already provide a good basis for the operation of the Khmer Organics programme. From the farmer interviews and information received from Srer Khmer it seems that there is also enough interest from shops, supermarkets and restaurants for an organic vegetables marketing programme. However, it will require many efforts from Srer Khmer and the farmers to develop the contact with these institutions into real sales. Unlike many individual consumers, these consumers will have much higher demand for the quality of the vegetables and the terms and services provided by the programme.

Organic Agriculture in Cambodia-Country Report


1.4. Government Interest: National IPM Programme, Siem Reap province, Ministry of Commerce The National IPM Programme and its two main donors, Danida and FAO, share an interest in developing pesticide-free and organic production, particularly for vegetables. Pesticide-free production is by some seen as a first step because consumers are mostly worried about pesticide residues. However, organic production could also start directly, but it would need more efforts to educate consumers and farmers about the additional requirements and benefits. Both the National IPM Programme, Danida and FAO agree on a focus on developing the local market. Some concerns were also raise, particularly concerning the production. In the beginning, there would not be enough volume and little diversity. Many farmer groups can only grow vegetables in one particular season. Besides, nobody in the National PM Programme works on marketing. FAO, Danida and NGOs, such as Srer Khmer, only have technical persons. It would therefore be good to have a marketing person. This marketing person should not just sell products, but also educate consumers about the concept of organic agriculture. A very interesting place for promoting organic agriculture with a high market demand is in Siep Reap, a province with a large tourism industry. Because of the big and increasing demands from the tourism industry, the production of vegetables in the province is very intensive and farmers use a lot of pesticides. This is already worrying many tourists. Early 2001 the Asean Tourism Delegation discussed this problem with the Provincial Department of Agriculture. Many hotels and restaurants are also regularly asking the Director of the Department for information on where organic or pesticide-free vegetables could be bought. The Department is a very strong supporter of the National PM Programme and Srer Khmer has good relations with its staff and the local IPM trainers. For developing pesticide-free /organic vegetables, the Department requested Srer Khmer to support 3-4 groups of farmers and it has also worked out some ideas for an inspection and certification programme for such vegetables. With such good support and a potentially very large market for organic vegetables, it would be very good for Srer Khmer to set up a separate programme for Siem Reap province. However, since it has no staff in that province, somebody needs to be appointed to run the programme. Other institution that is relevant to the organic sector is the Export Promotion Department of the Ministry of Commerce and the "Pro-Poor Trade Strategy" Project. The project's objective is to show that poor countries such as Cambodia can benefit from the WTO. It wants to do that through the promotion of the export of certain fruits and vegetables from Cambodia under a "Cambodia Label" for fresh fruits and vegetables. The project is not necessary interested in organic products, but if the organic products would be according to the general standards set by the project, they could be considered as well. The project is working a lot on the standards development and the identification of potential markets, but an organization that organizes the production, collection, packing is missing, and here the project is interested in collaborating with Srer Khmer. The Ministry of Commerce team was to hear that the UN Centre for Trade and Development has a fund available for setting up a national certification system. This money is presently not being use because there is no organic production in Cambodia. It would be interesting for Srer Khmer to discuss with this Centre to see if some of the money can be used for setting up Srer Khmer's Internal Control System as a pilot for Cambodia and as a first step in the development of a larger-scale national organic standard and certification system.

Organic Agriculture in Cambodia-Country Report


1.5. Chemical free vegetables by Srer Khmer Srer Khmer has worked with several IPM farmer groups in Kien Svay district, Kandal Province. So far, several field activities have been organize to strengthen their understanding on ecological agriculture and group organizing. These activities include alumni meetings field experiments; farm exchange visits technical information sharing sessions, and refresher courses. Based on these experiences, these farmer groups are now able to produce a range of vegetables without using any chemical pesticides or fertilizers. The chemical free vegetables that have been produced so far include petsai, Chinese cabbage, cucumber, tomato, Chinese kale, cauliflower, bitter gourd, yard long bean, and Chinese radish etc. Srer Knmer is now moving to the next step to facilitate the link between these growers and interested consumers. The stakeholders are invited to join the project as a membership to support these growers. The requirement for joining the membership is to sing up the membership, return it to Srer Khmer office, and pay the membership fee as deposit to start thing up. Srer Khmer is committed that the member’s contribution will: • Help farmers and public to reduce their risk of pesticides poisoning; • Increase local investment in improving agricultural development ; • Improve farmer living environment and income; • Promote ecological farming concept of farmers ; • Improve farmers livelihood focus on women and young farmers; • Provide you a fresh and healthy produces. 1.6. Farmer Organic Rice Production Association in Batambang province Battambang is the major rice production province in Cambodia. In addition, this province stands in first range of producing good and fragrant rice. The IPM activity was started in this province since 1996 and many farmers were trained through Farmer Field School (FFS). After FFS, some farmers have formed as the clubs. In the farmer clubs, farmers together do field experiment and other activities. The results of field trial were made farmers more understanding about rice production and interesting in organic rice. In 2002 some farmer clubs conducted field trial on organic rice such as application of straw and cow manure and chemical free crop protection methods. According to the result of the field trial, some farmer clubs in Battambang tried to grow rice without using chemical and sell their product together. In 2002, the Danida IPM Project supported the establishment of Farmer Organic Rice Production Association in Battambang province. The main objectives are to make farmers awareness of the importance of organic fertilizers to improve soil fertility and the affect of chemical pesticides on producers/consumers health including the environment, to find market for selling organic rice together getting high price and benefit and lastly to look at the possibility to participate in member of the international fair trade. 2. FOOD SAFETY IN CAMBODIA 2.1. Situation of Food Safety Management in Cambodia Overall capacity for food control in Cambodia is weak. The country lacks appropriate legislation and regulations for food control. Although the Senate ratified the Law on the Management of Quality and Safety of Products and Services in June 2000, it does not deal with food related
Organic Agriculture in Cambodia-Country Report


issues in sufficient depth, lacks important definitions of food safety, does not have a farm-totable approach and is not risk-based. At the same time, it appears to contribute to unnecessary duplication of roles and has resulted in confusion among different government agencies regarding their exact responsibilities. In addition, a draft law on the quality of fisheries products for import and export was approved by the Council of Ministers in January 2004 and has been submitted to the National Assembly, and a draft law related to animal disease epidemics is being prepared. Existing regulations and standards related to food are incomplete and outdated. The shortage of standards addressing food, food additives and animal feed hinders action against adulterated or contaminated food. In the absence of a national policy on food safety, responsibilities for food control are dispersed across different ministries and agencies with poorly defined and sometimes overlapping mandates between them. The Government has established an Inter-Ministerial Committee for the Coordination of Inspection of Quality and Safety of Products and Services (IMC) with a secretariat in the Cam-control Department of the Ministry of Commerce. However, this committee is relatively inactive. The food safety-working group to improve coordination among concerned departments in the Ministry of Health also meets infrequently. Although some efforts have made to increase the level of general knowledge of food standardization and food safety issues among officials (including through an FAO project to strengthen the National Codex Committee, which has its secretariat in the Cam control Department), further work is needed. National capacity for food inspection is similarly weak. A number of different agencies (Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy and health authorities) are involved in inspection with duplication and overlap in their roles and responsibilities. Although the capacity of the inspectorate in the Ministry of Commerce is strong, the capability of inspectors serving under the Ministry of Health is weak. In general, there are also many gaps in the implementation of inspection in food production, processing, handling and sales. Inspectors are not specialized in necessary aspects of food control. Inadequate training and possible corruption in enforcement are constraints. Although the Pasteur Institute and some government laboratories provide high-level expertise in particular analyses, laboratory personnel generally lack training in analytical methods and quality assurance, and overall capacity for food monitoring and disease surveillance is limited. Laboratories tend to work in isolation from each other contributing to overlapping activities. Risk analysis has not been adopted as a basis for decision-making. In spite of some efforts to support food safety education and training (notably an extensive integrated pest management programme), the vast majority of farmers, fishers, food processors, food handlers and consumers remain uninformed about food safety and as a result lack the capacity to comply with modem food quality and safety assurance requirements. 2.2. Improving Food Safety and its management Recently the FAO/WHO in collaboration with the Governments of Cambodia, Lao and Vietnam has been formulated a regional programme to improve food safety. The principal objectives of the project are to strengthen the capacity of the national authorities to regulate and enforce food safety, to assist rural communities and small business to produce and process safe food, and to reduce the incidence of food-borne disease. By providing support to develop a modem and science-based food control system, this project will reduce food safety risks for domestic consumers in Cambodia and promote economic development through increased food and

Organic Agriculture in Cambodia-Country Report


agricultural exports that meet international sanitary and phytosanitary requirements. The key strategies to achieve this include: (i) (ii) (iii) (iv) (v) (vi) (vii) Assisting authorities in rationalizing policies, laws and standards related to food safety and quality; Information sharing and exchange of good practices between the participating countries; Enhancing the skills of inspectors and facilitating effective enforcement of regulations; Strengthening the capacity of countries to monitor food contamination and apply such information for risk management purposes; facilitating the application of good agricultural practices (GAP), good hygienic practices (GHP), quality assurance (QA) and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point System (HACCP) in small and medium sized agri-food businesses; Increasing awareness and knowledge about food safety among consumers and women and men responsible for food production, processing, handling and marketing in rural communities, and Developing and implementing food-borne disease surveillance systems.

Target Beneficiaries The direct beneficiaries will be officials responsible for various aspects of food control in Cambodia including policy makers, laboratory personnel, inspectors and other officials, as well as employees of small and medium-sized enterprises involved in food production, processing, distribution and exports. The project will also directly benefit rural food producers, processors and handlers (both men and women). By providing them with the knowledge and skills to improve food safety and quality, it will help to expand income-generating opportunities through enhanced access to new markets for food and agricultural products. The project will generate increased earnings from trade and contribute to the creation of jobs in food production, processing and export by stimulating trade in food and agricultural exports. Finally, the project will benefit the general population through an increased supply of safe food that is both domestically produced and imported. 2.3. Prior or On-going Assistance in Support of Food Safety in Cambodia Reflecting the importance of food safety to enhance public heath as well as economic development, a number of completed and on-going projects have addressed various challenges facing food safety and quality in Cambodia. These include: • FAO Technical Cooperation Project (TCP) to strengthen the National Codex Committee in Cambodia and build the capacity of the Cam-control Department in the areas of food inspection, food analysis and import control (1999-2001). • UNIDO is supporting the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy to develop standards on labeling and certification for vinegar, fish sauce, soy sauce and chilly sauce based on compliance with Industrial Standards Cambodia. • Since the early 1990s, WHO has provided a number of short-term consultancies focused on strengthening the capacity of the health authorities to implement a programme on food control and have conducted training of health workers in basic food safety.

Organic Agriculture in Cambodia-Country Report


3. PROPOSAL FOR A PROJECT ON ORGANIC AGRICULTURE IN MY ORGANIZATION 3.1. Background The Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) has a stated policy of agricultural development that emphasizes food security for all citizens of the nation and sustained growth in agricultural production, processing and marketing. In order to reduce poverty the RGC has developed a strategy that works toward high sustainable economic growth, human resource development and sustainable use of the country’s natural resource. Poor agricultural practices due to the lack of improved production know-how based on ecological principles and lack of appropriate decision-making skills, smallholder vegetable farmers routinely apply a lot of chemical fertilizers and pesticides with a hope to get high yield. These applications most often cause pest resurgences and resistances, ecological disruption, environmental contamination and degradations, health hazards to farmers and their families and toxic residues in food for local consumption as well as negative consequences for potential export of agricultural products. To deal with the above mentioned problem the RGC attaches great importance to IPM farmer training and is committed to introduce IPM as a means to ensure food security and food safety in a sustainable manner. Thousands of farmers have graduated from IPM Farmer Field Schools on rice, vegetable and mung bean in the last 10 years. Some FFS alumni have been continuing working together in a form of farmer clubs or associations. It is very important to assist farmers to produce good quality and cleaner agricultural produces in sufficient quantities as to meet the growing demand for ‘clean’ food especially by supermarkets, restaurants and hotels that are to serve the ever-increasing influx of international tourists. There are significant market opportunities for organic products in local markets and in major developed countries as domestic organic production lags behind demand. Although this gap is likely to decrease in the long term, some export opportunities will remain and at the same time, the market for organic foods is growing in developing countries including Cambodia. This will offer new opportunities for the development of the organic agriculture in Cambodia. It has believed that Cambodian smallholder farmers could take advantage of potential market opportunities since it has a number of comparative advantages for producing and supplying organic rice and vegetables. It is widely acknowledged that the organic agriculture can make significant positive contributions to the environment and rural community. 3.2. Objectives: • • • To educate small holder farmers on how to grow organic rice and vegetables To develop organic standards and establish a certification committee To assist small holder farmers in building marketing system for organic products

3.3. Activity Outlines: • Organizing reinforcement training for district IPM trainers. The existing IPM trainers in the districts where are selected as the target areas for the project will be invited to attend the intensive training on organic production and marketing. This training will be

Organic Agriculture in Cambodia-Country Report


organized by the National IPM Programme with an assistance from a professionally experienced expert, • Organizing training for smallholder farmers on organic production. The training begins with FFS alumni first and focuses on rice and vegetable as the starting point. The training approach will be season-long based on non-formal education principles with emphasis on discovery learning. Forming organic farmer groups. After receiving the training farmers will be formed as organic farmer associations and will work together in a collective manner. The groups will receive a regular backstop visits from the project staff to provide additional technical inputs and other assistances as required by the groups. Developing a locally accepted organic standard that is compatible to an international standard. The project in collaboration with concerned organizations will review various developed standards from different sources and then produce a standard for organic product in Cambodia. Setting up a control system. The project will set up a system for controlling the production and marketed products. It is required to establish guidelines for controlling field production and end product laboratory test. Setting up certification committee and procedures to certify organic products. A reliable certification committee needs to be formed in order to have authority to certify the organic products. The members of certifying committee should compost of representative of Government, NGO, private sectors, producers and customers. Then a procedure or guideline to be used for checking the quality and certifying the products also needs to be established. Market promotion and campaign. The project will produce leaflets with the explanation of advantage of the organic products and distribute them to all relevant stakeholders and customers. Raising awareness about the organic products will also been organized through television and radio. Creating marketing outlets. The project will set up organic shops in districts, provinces and in Phnom Penh to sell organic products. The project will also plan to develop market links with supermarkets, restaurants and hotels.

- Srer Khmer, 2002. Chemical Free-Vegetable - Vitoon Panayakul, 2002. Organic Agriculture - Danida-IPM, 2003. Organic Rice Production in Battambang Province - Koen den Braber, 2003. Organic Vegetables Production and Marketing - Rayman Perera 2004. GTZ Multilateral Trade Assistance Project in Cambodia - FOA, 2004. Improving Food Safety and its Management in Cambodia

Organic Agriculture in Cambodia-Country Report


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