As the global population grows and consumption patterns change, global food production is estimated to increase by 30% by 2030 and 50% by 2050. Climate change is also expected to impact crop yields in the long term. Therefore, increasing natural resource use efficiency is crucial for sustainable food production and environmental protection. This requires innovative and climate-resilient agricultural production systems and technologies that promote yield growth while protecting ecosystems.
Sustainable farming, which includes the principles of Agroecology and Conservation Agriculture (CA), is one strategy for achieving these goals. CA is an agroecological practice that aims to sustain agricultural productivity, profits, and food security while preserving and enhancing the environment. It is based on three main principles: minimal or no soil tillage, permanent organic soil cover, and crop species diversification. These principles promote ecological processes, which drive soil biota diversity and functionality, soil structure, and soil organic carbon and nitrogen accumulation, contributing to system resilience. CA practices have been shown to improve land and labour productivity, enhance biodiversity, and conserve soil and water resources, making farmers and communities more resilient to climate change impacts and economic shocks.
The Royal Government of Cambodia’s commitment to sustainable farming and agriculture development is evident in various policies and plans, including the overarching Rectangular Strategy IV and National Strategic Development Plan (2019-2023), as well as the country’s commitment to achieving the Cambodia Sustainable Development Goals (CSDGs) and other development targets. The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has embarked upon a systems approach with the Conservation Agriculture and Sustainable Intensification Consortium (CASIC), addressing the needs of stakeholders at various scales through different systems, the so-called Light Bulb Approach. These include research for development and vocational training, skills and human resources, a public-private partnership extension model (Metkasekor), engagement of the private sector on machinery and plant biodiversity, and DeiMeas, a financial mechanism incentivising farmers towards agroecological farming. This dynamic is supported by several development partners, including Swisscontact.
Impact on business
Conventional farming practices have been the foundation of Cambodia’s food production, but they are increasingly harmful to the environment, economy, and businesses. The use of synthetic fertilisers, pesticides, and herbicides causes soil degradation, biodiversity loss, and water contamination. Agriculture also contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions, leading to increased costs from climate change impacts. Resource depletion is another concern, as conventional farming requires large amounts of water and energy, which can lead to depletion of these resources and increased costs for farmers.
Moreover, consumers are increasingly seeking sustainably produced goods, and companies are recognising the importance of sustainable practices to maintain their social licence to operate. Sustainable farming practices, including agroecology principles, can mitigate these negative impacts while enhancing competitiveness and reducing risks.
- Create a framework for sustainable farming standards by employing relevant certification and financial schemes.
The transition to sustainable farming is crucial for securing a sustainable future for Cambodia’s economy and businesses. It can improve the health of ecosystems, reduce environmental impacts, and increase resilience to climate change. Sustainable practices can also lead to increased efficiency, increased productivity, and improved working conditions for farmers. Therefore, promoting sustainable farming practices should be a matter of concern for the RGC and the private sector to ensure the long-term sustainability of Cambodia’s food production and enable it to meet the future challenges of food security and climate change.
We therefore respectfully recommend that the relevant ministries consider creating a framework for sustainable farming standards that complies with the principles of agroecology and employ relevant certification and financial schemes to encourage farmers to transition towards sustainable farming practices.
Furthermore, the Light Bulb approach has been well established as an effective system to transition from conventional farming towards sustainable farming. Therefore, the RGC can also support in strengthening the light bulb model through various policy implementations, including:
- Under Research for development and vocational training, the RGC can support in establishing partnerships between research institutions, private sector actors, and local communities to ensure that research is demand-driven and relevant to the needs of smallholder farmers. The RGC can also increase funding for research and development in the agriculture sector, particularly in areas related to climate change, sustainable practices, and innovation;
- Under Skills and human resources in agroecology, the RGC can provide scholarships and other incentives to encourage students to pursue studies in agroecology and promote courses on agroecology in universities. The RGC can also support in developing frameworks to link and connect students specialising in agroecology to the other systems so that there is a better influx of specialists in the field of agroecology and sustainable farming;
- Under the Public-private partnership extension model (Metkasekor), the RGC can support in establishing a clear regulatory framework for public-private partnerships in agriculture extension services to ensure transparency, accountability, and equity. The RGC can also promote the participation of smallholder farmers, particularly women and youth in MetKasekor;
- Under Technologies and Practices, the RGC can encourage private sector investment to address the issues of accessibility and affordability of sustainable farming machinery and practices such as cover crop use. This can be done by providing tax incentives, subsidies and access to credit, and other forms of support to source appropriate machinery and establish partnerships between the private sector and smallholder farmers to build capacity of farmers to use the technologies and implement sustainable farming practices;
- Under Transition financing (Dei Meas), the RGC can support by implementing land use policies to encourage sustainable farming practices. Furthermore, the RGC can also facilitate market access for sustainably produced agricultural products through certification schemes, labeling, and promotion of sustainable products to consumers.
Adopting sustainable farming practices presents significant opportunities for businesses to enhance competitiveness, mitigate risks, and contribute to a more sustainable future. By transitioning to sustainable farming, businesses can reduce their environmental impact, meet consumer demand for sustainable products, and comply with regulations. Sustainable practices can also improve resource efficiency, reduce input costs, and increase crop yields over time. This, in turn, can enhance competitiveness, boost market share, and improve brand reputation. Furthermore, sustainable farming can attract investment and support from stakeholders who prioritise sustainability, contributing to the long-term viability of businesses.
Royal government of Cambodia
Initiative from Eurocham: The issue has been raised by the Agribusiness Committee within The White Book edition 2024 in the Recommendation No. 20.
Issue supported by