Helping Cambodians RECOVER from COVID-19Published: Jan 25, 2022 Reading time: 5 minutes
The COVID-19 pandemic has spared no one, but it has disproportionately impacted people in developing economies. In rural Cambodia, the challenges posed by the pandemic are particularly acute, and include a lack of market access to agricultural products, reduction in agricultural value chains, job losses, the return of migrant labourers from neighboring countries, and the reduction of new migrations due to border closures. The United Nations reports that more than 200,000 migrant workers returned home from neighbouring countries when the pandemic first hit, and 43% of those are women.
To get back on their feet, rural Cambodians need assistance; People in Need (PIN) is working to provide it.
On the road to RECOVERY
With funding from the European Union, PIN, along with DanChurchAid (DCA) and Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO), is leading on the three-year “RECOVER: Rural Employment for COVID-19 Economic Recovery” project, with special attention to three main sectors: poultry farming, horticulture, and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), as well as the rights of returning migrants and laid-off workers. With this enormous €4.5 million project, which began in January 2021 and runs through December 2023, the goal is to contribute to inclusive economic recovery and food security in the Cambodia’s Tonle Sap region.
The project will improve income and employment opportunities for fishing and farming communities and returning labourers. It will do this by leveraging existing relationships with private sector and local civil society partners to further strengthen value chains by linking producers, processors, and buyers.
The role of PIN Cambodia
Building on past experience with the CAM4SCALE project implementation, PIN’s main area of focus is on the poultry value chain. As one of the technical leads, PIN has worked closely with a local co-implementer, the Cambodian Institute for Research and Rural Development (CIRD). Our main responsibilities include expanding production size with adequate quality and inputs, improving technical skills and knowledge, and increasing farmers’ market access.
During the project’s launch phase, our team worked on the selection of agricultural cooperatives (ACs), as they are one of our main target stakeholders. So far, PIN has worked with 29 ACs and formed 116 producer groups (PGs) with 2,900 farmers and chicken producers registered. ACs play a vital role in connecting poultry stakeholders at the local level – including PG members, farmer trainers, veterinary shops, private vet companies, slaughterhouses, demonstration farmers, and buyers. From chick supplying to poultry raising, processing to market distribution, strengthening the poultry value chain requires strong involvement from facilitators, including PIN, which is providing both technical and financial support.
Supporting COVID-19 affected communities
Despite a delay in project activities due to the pandemic, PIN in Cambodia was still able to begin project activities in early 2021. Together with CIRD, PIN has provided capacity-building trainings to farmers and chick producers to ensure that those affected by COVID-19 can be equipped with better chicken raising skills, secure enough food supplies, and generate income through product sales at markets.
Chick producers in particular have been trained on poultry raising techniques, breed selection, vaccination, and financial literacy. On top of that, the team has also delivered business planning skills as it is essential for their business sustainability even after the project ends.
"Knowing how to propose a clear plan is crucial," says Vibol Nget, CIRD’s project coordinator. For instance, Vibol says that if the community demands 2,000 kilograms of chicken per month, chick producers must do their planning to ensure they have enough supplies. Moreover, they have also learnt proper poultry raising that can lower chicken mortality rates. This will help reduce business losses, he adds.
Vibol says the RECOVER project has already been a good investment for affected communities and for rural economic recovery. “We have put strong efforts in strengthening communities’ capacity in this sector, which will create sustainability, we believe.” Although poultry raising might not bring a huge income, it can at least create another stream of income for locals. If their businesses perform better, they might not consider migrating anymore, Vibol concludes.
The RECOVER project and stakeholder involvement will help strengthen the quality of raw inputs. Development partners’ effort in supporting government’s commitment within the sector will push for better local production, local income generation, and will eventually reduce the number of migrants.
Kong Pheach, Director of the Department of Agro-Industry of Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry (MAFF) concurs. “I would like to thank [those involved with] the RECOVER project, [which will] promote and foster growth of local productivities and quality of agricultural products to meet with local market demands. We are happy to support the whole consortium in any way possible to ensure the smooth flow of the project implementation.”
Bunnara Chourn, Livelihood Programme Manager at PIN Cambodia, says the next steps in the project are to build on last year’s trainings and to strengthen demand for poultry products.
"In 2021 we equipped all stakeholders with in-kind and in-cash resources, as well as and technical know-how. This year we will still provide ongoing technical training, but a stronger focus will be on production capacity and quality to ensure market demand.” In addition, PIN will place an emphasis on linking market actors for profitable business collaborations.
Together with CIRD, PIN will improve private sector engagement through collaboration with national vet companies, buyers, social enterprises (chicken grill shop), and chicken processors to boost market demands, and to ensure sufficient quality inputs and services. Strengthening capital access for farmers and ACs through joint efforts with micro-finance institutions is also another priority going forward.