The Coalition of Cambodian Farmer Community (CCFC) is campaigning to stop the use of toxic chemical pesticides on crops during the month of June. The group aims to spread awareness about the dangers it says the hazardous pesticides pose, including brain damage and negative impacts on the development and growth of children.

CCFC president Theng Saroeun said on June 5 that the campaign was launched to celebrate International Children’s Day and to urge an end to the use of poisonous pesticides that can damage the brain and inhibit the growth of children.

“We have advertised this campaign on Facebook and met in person with representatives from other farming communities in some target provinces including Prey Veng, Tbong Khmum, Takeo, Kampong Speu, Koh Kong and Preah Sihanouk, where dangerous chemical pesticides are widely used.

“We are conducting this campaign in collaboration with a network of organisations in the region of Southeast Asia that are concerned with the promotion of children’s rights, and it is especially important first and foremost that we give our children the right to live without brain damage from these pesticides,” he said.

Saroeun said that currently the CCFC is aware of multiple poisonous chemical pesticides that are being used in the food sector and on crops in Cambodia and across the region.

“We hope that this campaign will have the support of the people, especially farmers and those in the agriculture sector, in joining us in demanding an end to the use of the pesticides,” he said.

Ngin Chhay, head of the General Directorate of Agriculture under the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, was not available for comment on June 5.

According to previous statements by the ministry, the prevalence of pests is a major obstacle that concern farmers due to the crop damage they cause. But it also noted that the management of pests in line with current technical standards can help farmers reduce production costs and protect their crops with negligible impacts on consumer health or the environment.

The ministry’s standpoint is that, when used correctly and according to instructions, pesticides are an effective and efficient means to protect crops.

Previously, in collaboration with the Australian government, the Cambodia-Australia Agricultural Value Chain Program (CAVAC) prepared legal guidelines for information labels for pesticides to ensure the effective management of them.

Ker Monthivuth, director of the Department of Plant Protection, Sanitation and Phyto-sanitation, appeared in a video advertising the improvements in information labels for pesticides last month.

“A challenging problem that farmers always encounter in cultivation is the prevalence of pests that are more and more resistant to pesticides since the use of pesticides has the effect of leaving alive only those pests that are most resistant to them. This is essentially the process of evolution or natural selection,” he said.

Phum Ra, the director of the Department of Agricultural Legislation, said in the video that agriculture minister Veng Sakhon understood the problems and issues surrounding pests and had already issued instructions on pesticide use in April, 2018.

“The instructions concern the use of pesticides. We have to use them properly. It doesn’t matter which pests, whether it’s red caterpillars or others, it applies to all pesticides,” he said.

Kong Roth, a farmer in Takeo province, said the most challenging problems for him in the cultivation of his crops are pests and diseases destroying them.

“If we see that our crops are blighted, we have to go and buy the pesticide that matches whatever pest killing our crops. Certain farmers mistakenly buy the wrong pesticide to solve their problem and it costs them money and it does nothing to eradicate their pests or save their crops,” he said.