Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Dith Tina has outlined the latest details of plans to recruit the agriculture officials who are set to be posted to selected communes across the Kingdom.

He explained that the project is part of the agriculture ministry’s plans to develop modern agriculture communities and boost the sector.

The minister noted that the deployment of the officials represents a large investment by the government, and will ensure that the creation of the modern communities is effective.

“The communities will be supported by commune-based agriculture officials, in order to build the most affective communities possible. This will alleviate the difficulties of the member farmers, whether in terms of securing loans or any other issues they may face,” said Tina, while addressing a joint press conference with Minister of Civil Service Hun Many. The December 4 media event was held at the Royal School of Administration.

Tina added that the formation of the communities would enable farmers to increase their resilience to climate change, market risks and a lack of capital.

“We need agriculture officials to be posted at the commune level, so they can be on standby to provide direct assistance as soon as it is required. Every commune conducts different agricultural activities. In Kampong Cham and Tbong Khmum provinces, for example, the cultivation of rubber, cashew and rice is popular, but even within these provinces, the precise situation varies from one commune to another. We will post the officials according to the actual needs of each commune,” he said.

He explained that the officials will provide the best assistance they are capable of, but added that the resources of the provincial agriculture departments – and the ministry – will be available to support them and find solutions to any challenge they cannot deal with.

He added that each of the newly-recruited commune agriculture officials will be evaluated within one year of their posting, in order to assess the quality of their work, as well as their dedication to the role.

According to the Ministry of Civil Service, a total 12,744 candidates have expressed interest and registered via the ministry’s recruitment platform. Of the interested individuals, 7,422 people have filed official applications. After initial evaluations of the applications were conducted, it was determined that 3,329 candidates are qualified to sit the examination to be held on December 17 at the Royal University of Phnom Penh. 

The exam will be monitored by officials from the Anti-Corruption Unit. It will be divided into three parts: two hours for writing, one hour for multiple choice questions, and one hour for an English competency test. The multiple choice section will centre on the candidates’ knowledge of agriculture, general knowledge, administration, the civil service, ethics, math, IT and geography.

Tina explained that an official will be posted to the 1,552 of the Kingdom’s 1,652 communes that are currently engaged in agricultural activities. He added that the ministry may recruit up to 1,600 officials, with some held in reserve.

Once appointed, the officials will receive a minimum monthly salary of 1.4 million riel (approximately $350), with an additional monthly allowance of 160,000 riel ($40), as well as the potential to earn bonus payments.

“During the first phase of recruitment, we will post 250 officials to 250 communes, most of them involved in the cultivation of rice. We will recruit another 800 officials in 2024 and an additional 550 in 2025, in order to match with our plans,” he said.

According to the civil service ministry, the first deployment of agriculture officials will serve communes in 17 provinces: Takeo, Kampong Speu, Kampong Thom, Siem Reap, Banteay Meanchey, Kampong Cham, Kampong Chhnang, Battambang, Kampot, Pursat, Prey Veng, Preah Vihear, Tbong Khmum, Svay Rieng, Oddar Meanchey, Kandal and Mondulkiri.

During the press conference, civil service minister Many detailed how the recruitment process has been widely publicised, and would be conducted in a transparent way, in order to provide equal opportunities for interested candidates.

“From the very first steps, the entire process has been carried our according to clearly outlined procedures. Each of the candidates must possess the qualifications that we have laid out – those whose applications did not meet the basic criteria we set will not be permitted to sit the examination,” he said.

Tina added that to ensure that the exams are just and transparent, none of the questions will be released prior to the date of the tests.

“To avoid any issues and ensure that the process is completely fair and just, the technical committee will only release the exams on the day the candidates sit them. There will be no prior preparation,” he said.

When asked how he envisions the future of the Kingdom’s agriculture sector, Tina noted that many countries have gradually transformed themselves from a focus on agriculture into other sectors, such as industry or the service economy. In Cambodia, he said agriculture will remain important.

“We have development goals and visions for 2030 and 2050, but our approach to achieving them is not to diminish the role of rice production and agriculture. We must maintain the agriculture sector to ensure food security and avoid a situation in which ‘even a rich person lacks rice to eat’,” he said.