Since 2008, an internship programme created by Cambodia’s Royal University of Agriculture (RUA) and Israeli training centre Agrostudies has sent 1,729 Cambodian students to the Middle East nation, according to Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon.

Sakhon revealed the figure during a meeting with 250 agriculture students who are set to go to Israel for internships in the 2022-23 academic year.

Sakhon said their internships in Israel are a good opportunity for the students to develop their skills through theoretical study and that the internships would take place in a range of workplaces from laboratories to processing plants to vegetable and fruit farms to experimental nurseries and of course on some modern farms involved in the production, processing, breeding, aquaculture, animal and dairy production and horticulture sectors.

He advised students to study the scientific theories they will be learning as well as the practical skills they can pick up and to adhere to the rules, discipline, ethics, culture, traditions and customs of Israel.

He said they should have patience and develop and build themselves to become outstanding and valuable students before turning to their own interests and to think about ways they can be of benefit to the society upon their return.

“The country needs human resources in the agricultural sector with the knowledge potential, skills and experience absorbed from Israel. Of course, you have to take this opportunity and work hard to learn and absorb all of the skills so that you develop the intellectual capacity to get together and solve problems in the Cambodian agricultural sector appropriately, quickly and effectively,” he said.

RUA rector Ngo Bunthan said most of the graduates in Israel have returned with the knowledge, skills and experience of farming to start their own businesses in Cambodia.

“In the beginning, we did not see much impact, but now it is starting to bear fruits. Some of our students are able to start their own business after they go to Israel. One student worked on mushroom seeding there so when he returned home he formed a big mushroom farm. Some of them raise animals, some of them run vegetable farming businesses,” he said.

Bunthan said the main purpose of sending students to this training is to give them private sector experience using the most modern agricultural techniques and technology, which Israel is particularly known for. The work the students do for these large agricultural companies helps them to become professional agricultural entrepreneurs in many cases.

“The ultimate goal of the training is to accelerate our economy. We train our students to become agricultural entrepreneurs, so we can turn to agribusiness for development of the sector as much as we can,” he said.

He said that at present, several large companies in agriculture are cooperating with RUA to provide jobs for these students when they return to develop the national economy.

However, Nuth Sambath, president of the Institute of Medicine, Biology and Agriculture at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said students who have gone to Israel for internships and returned to Cambodia have not shown much of an impact yet.

“I have not seen any big results yet. Some of them come back and they work privately and I’ve seen that they band together as a team to do some things. But as far as things go that impress me, I have never seen anything like that yet,” he said.

During the 11 months the students are in Israel, they study scientific theories as well as topics such as international agricultural standards, agricultural economics, crop protection, research projects, land resources conservation, the basics of modern irrigation systems, post-harvest techniques in vegetables and fruits and agricultural sustainability.

The skills practiced on the farms include raising chickens, horticulture, harvesting and packaging, flower planting and mushroom seeding.