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. They include a lack of market access for agricultural products, reduction in agricultural value chains, job losses, the return of migrant labourers from neighbouring countries, and the decrease in 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% are women.
On the road to RECOVERY
To get back on their feet, rural Cambodians need assistance; and we are working to provide it. With funding from the European Union, along with DanChurchAid (DCA) and Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO), we are leading the three-year “RECOVER: Rural Employment for COVID-19 Economic Recovery” project. The project focuses special attention on three key 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 €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 Cambodia’s Tonle Sap region.
The RECOVER 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 our experience with the CAM4SCALE project implementation, our main area of focus is the poultry value chain. As one of the technical leads, we have worked closely with a local co-implementer, the Cambodian Institute for Research and Rural Development (CIRD). Our primary responsibilities include expanding production size with adequate quality and inputs, improving technical skills and knowledge, and increasing market access.
During the project’s launch phase, our team worked on selecting Agricultural Cooperatives (ACs), as they are one of our main target stakeholders. So far, we have 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, providing both technical and financial support.
Supporting COVID-19-affected communities
Despite disruption to project activities due to the pandemic, PIN in Cambodia was to begin project activities in early 2021. Together with CIRD, we have provided capacity-building training 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 have been trained in poultry raising techniques, breed selection, vaccination, and financial literacy. On top of that, the team has also delivered business planning skills, which are 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 vast 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’ efforts in supporting the government’s commitment within the sector will push for better local production and income generation, eventually reducing the number of migrants.
Kong Pheach, Director of the Department of Agro-Industrythe of Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestr,y (MAFF) concurs. “I would like to thank [those involved with] the RECOVER project, [which will] promote and foster the 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 training and to strengthen the 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 emphasise 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 shops), and chicken processors to boost market demand, 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.
This publication was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of People in Need and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.