Approximately 1.9 million households in Cambodia are currently engaged in agriculture production and feed around 15.8 million people.

In 2012, one agri-food sector worker had to produce enough food to feed 2.8 people. And by 2030, predicted growth of towns and urban areas will mean that each worker will need to be productive enough to feed 4.5 people. This future burden is driving innovation in the sector.

The figures were released at an agricultural market fair held under the banner “Innovation for sustainable agri-food systems and climate resilient agriculture” on February 15.

The event was organised through the framework of a project jointly implemented by the General Directorate of Agriculture and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) with funding support from the EU.

Ho Puthea, deputy head of the general directorate under the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said the project aimed to identify and develop innovation.

Because farmers, fishers and forest workers were critically important for the food security of all Cambodians, agricultural modernisation was crucial, he said.

“To meet this challenge, significant labour-saving innovation is required in agri-food systems. Agricultural production innovations are about introducing new processes and ways of doing things. We aim to increase the quality and quantity of agriculture production for more profit generation, while also safeguarding the environment and the health of the population” said Puthea.

According to the FAO’s press release on February 16, agricultural innovations hold the key to sustainable production intensification and increasing farmers’ incomes.

It added that the persistent challenges derived from climate change and degrading natural resources beg the question as to how food can be produced sustainably to meet the demands of a growing population. Different stakeholders in the sector have been looking into how agricultural innovations can secure sustainable growth in Cambodia’s agriculture and good systems.

FAO said innovation has only been applied on a limited scale in Cambodia. The Kingdom was prevented from unlocking its innovation potential by the lack of a national support framework or an enabling environment, it said.

Antonio Schiavone, FAO Head of Operations, said that to help the majority of the rural population, whose livelihoods strongly relied on farming and natural resources, concerted efforts are needed to improve agricultural innovation.

He added that agriculture plays a leading role in food production, accounting for about 60 per cent of the earth’s population of about seven billion people. In the last 30 years, about 350 million people had been employed in the sector – including around 150 million smallholder households who used farm labour directly to produce food. These 350 million food producers saved about 850 million people from food shortages, he said.

By 2050, the world’s population will reach nine billion, with two-thirds living in urban areas. The world will require an increase in food production of 70 per cent, while facing severe pressure on land and water resources.