The UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the Cambodian Agriculture Cooperative Corporation (CACC) are launching a new project targeting over 1,200 smallholder farmers and their extended families in Koh Nhek district in the country’s northeastern province of Mondulkiri.

A May 8 joint press release noted that with funding from the Global Agriculture and Food Security Programme and CACC – $1.79 million and $1.1 million respectively – the project aims to enhance the resilience and livelihoods of smallholder farmers through organic agriculture and access to new markets. It also seeks to promote improved nutrition and gender equity through social behavioural change, by generating demand for healthy diets and tackling harmful social norms.

“The project was designed in the context of Covid-19, and adopted an innovative public-private-producer partnership approach, underscoring the need to leverage private-sector investment, strengthen policy dialogue, secure necessary know-how and support more environmentally sound, socially equitable and economically viable development,” said WFP representative to Cambodia Claire Conan.

She added that increased incomes play an important role in facilitating better nutrition as households can access more diverse and healthy foods, protecting them from the negative impacts of shock-induced damages on household nutrition.

“To engage women in the project is a key transforming factor because in Cambodia, women play a lead role in households’ food management. Despite facing many difficulties in terms of access to land, extension services, financial services, markets and technology, they also make up over half of the agricultural labour force countrywide,” she said.

“To tackle the issues, the project will deploy social behaviour change communications to influence food behaviours and gender equality in the district’s households,” she added.

Kunthy Kann, CACC managing director, noted that the prices of organic food are higher and more stable than traditional commodities, creating opportunities for higher-profit margins and steadier sources of income.

“Our goal is to increase the participating farmers’ incomes by up to 20 per cent, compared to typical farm gate returns,” Kann said, adding that CACC will facilitate market linkages to ensure this, and the farmers will be able to use the premiums earned to better safeguard against future shocks and stresses.

He continued that CACC will build an inclusive and integrated organic food value chain and incentivise smallholder farmers, including women and ethnic minority population, to switch to the organic farming approach using only natural fertilisers and pesticides, coupled with other climate-smart practices.