The Australian aid program to Cambodia will concentrate activities in four key areas: rural development, health, infrastructure, and law and justice. ACIAR’s strategy is to support the rural development component in line with the Royal Government of Cambodia’s (RGC’s) development priorities, as outlined in the National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP) 2006–13. This plan brings together Cambodia’s MDG targets and the priorities of its national poverty reduction strategy.
Agriculture remains a significant part of the Cambodian economy, with about 80% of Cambodia’s population and most of its poor relying on agriculture for their livelihoods. The agriculture sector remains highly relevant to Cambodian economic growth. The Cambodian agricultural production environment is, in general, harsher than the fertile lowlands of other countries in the region. Soils are generally poor, often becoming waterlogged during the wet season, and three-quarters of the agriculture is rainfed. The predominance of rice-based farming systems on infertile, poorly structured soils means that Cambodia has rather low agricultural productivity on both a labour and a land area basis.
ACIAR’s program in Cambodia has three thrusts, all of which are in line with the Strategy for Agriculture and Water, which has emerged from the NSDP and the newly promulgated RGC Rice Export Policy. First, ACIAR supports research that aims to increase and secure the productivity of rice-based farming systems. This is important for both household food security and national and regional food production. Second, the strategy supports applied R&D that underpins agricultural diversification, particularly into non-rice field and horticultural crops and ruminant livestock. A third thrust recognises the vulnerability of Cambodian agriculture, particularly rainfed cropping, to climate variability and change. Complementing the above, a new program of research will assist adaptation to climate change at the farm scale, developing capacity for more-efficient use of soil and water resources.
ACIAR also places emphasis on research to underpin the development of suitable supply chains through participation in the Cambodia Agricultural Value Chain (CAVAC) program. CAVAC’s goal is to accelerate growth in the value of agricultural production and smallholder incomes in selected provinces (Kampong Thom, Takeo and Kampot) through improved productivity of rice-based farming systems. Under CAVAC, the AusAID and ACIAR co-funded research and extension components are: (1) funds and manages programs of priority research activities that address constraints in selected value chains; (2) enhances the capacity of extension providers to transfer improved technologies and information to farmers; (3) develops and implements a partnership program linking researchers, extensionists, farmers and agribusiness; and (4) assists in sustaining the operational capacity of the Cambodian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI). ACIAR works in close collaboration with CAVAC to accelerate the uptake/adoption of promising technologies developed through research programs, and identify appropriate indicators to track this adoption.
The Cambodian Agricultural Research Fund (CARF), established in 2002 with AusAID and ACIAR co-funding, continues under CAVAC, providing Cambodian scientists with opportunities to identify research priorities, design demand-driven agricultural research projects, compete for agricultural research funds and lead the selected projects. Titles and summaries of the 80 projects can be found on the ACIAR website.
ACIAR’s programs have a focus on the southern provinces (Kampot, Takeo, Kandal, Prey Veng and Kampong Cham), two Tonle Sap provinces (Kampong Thom and Siem Reap) and two north-western provinces (Battambang and Pailin, mainly emphasising maize-based field crops). These provinces were selected on the basis of access to emerging domestic and international (Thailand, Vietnam) markets, and as key production locations for the agreed priority crops and ruminant livestock.
Priorities for ACIAR–Cambodia cooperation are established through meetings between RPMs and executive staff at ACIAR and Cambodian agricultural R&D institutions, government departments and other organisations active in rural affairs. Effort is made to align the agreed priorities with the Strategy for Agriculture and Water 2010–13.
Priorities for R&D cooperation—in production, protection, processing and marketing of field and horticultural crops—were discussed in February 2008 at a workshop in Phnom Penh, jointly hosted by ACIAR and AusAID. It involved representatives of relevant national and provincial government ministries and agencies, universities, the private sector, NGOs and other donors. The full list of agreed priorities from the meetings is available at , and includes the following:
- Securing productivity of rice-based farming systems
- Development and diversification of rice varieties for lowland environments
- Planting technologies and mechanisation of rice production
- Soil and nutrient management
- Income generation and better nutrition through agricultural diversification
- Non-rice field crops
- Assessment of annual crops that support agroindustry, particularly maize, soybean and cassava
- Assessment of suitable environmental and soil conditions for reducing risk in early wet-season soybean production before rice
- Synthesis and dissemination of supply systems, regulations and standards for field- and horticultural-crop seed, and of cropping inputs to meet requirements of markets and trading partners
- Understanding domestic market needs and improving supply chains
- Development and dissemination of information on integrated crop production and postharvest management in selected vegetable crops
- Development of plant biosecurity, including biosecurity- and quarantine-related R&D, molecular identification of quarantine pests and technical capacity building
- Ruminant livestock
- Improvement in ruminant livestock health through integration of better nutrition, identification of diseases of importance to production, and methods (including vaccination and control of livestock movements) for preventing and controlling key diseases
- Management of cattle and buffalo production through improvements in reproduction and year-round availability of feedstuffs in rice-based farming systems, along with improved market linkages
- Cambodian Agricultural Research Fund
- Support for research and extension in areas of agricultural diversification through CARF
- Helping Cambodian crop and livestock production systems respond to climate change
- Assessing adaptive capacity of smallholder farmers to climate variability and change
- On-farm crop modelling to develop crop rotations that are better matched to shifting rainfall regimes
- Production of an additional crop in lowland rice-based cropping systems with better use of residual moisture, late-season rainfall or limited supplementary irrigation
- Improving the capacity of poor communities dependent on aquatic resources in Laos and Cambodia to adapt to changing environmental conditions through fisheries and aquaculture.