This project aims to develop and test a village-level biosecurity system in Cambodia to improve livestock productivity.
Livestock could provide a sustainable income for rural smallholder households and reduce poverty and food insecurity in Cambodia. Growing regional demand for animal protein and a decreasing national large ruminant population has increased cattle prices. Production-limiting constraints must be addressed if enhanced livestock productivity is to provide improved rural livelihoods. This requires interventions in animal health, biosecurity, nutrition, reproduction and marketing at the village level.
This project will develop forage plot to engage farmers, develop disease risk management strategies, and test them for cattle, buffalo, pigs and poultry which are economically and socially important and vulnerable to disease.
The first year has been a success, with implementation milestones achieved.
The inception meeting on 5 May 2015 in Phnom Penh included 45 participants comprising His Excellency Oum Kimsir (Secretary of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries), Dr Seng Mom (Vice Director, Royal University of Agriculture), Dr Geoff Smith (University of New England) and other members of the project team of AH/2010/046 (‘Domestic and international market development for high value cattle and beef in South-East Cambodia’, Beef4Market or B4M), Mr Paul Keogh (Counsellor, Development Cooperation, Australian Embassy) and Dr Mike Nunn (ACIAR Research Program Manager for Animal Health. Other participants included the Provincial Directors of Agriculture and Chiefs of Animal Health and Production Offices from Battambang, Siem Reap, Kampong Cham, Tbong Khmum and Takeo. The meeting outlined the objectives and planned activities for the project and confirmed the selection criteria and locations for the 16 planned project sites (at the district level).
A core research and extension team within the Department of Animal Health and Production (DAHP) was established under the leadership of Dr Suon Sothoeun. Following site visits that enabled stakeholder engagement at the village level, 16 project villages (termed ‘locations’) were confirmed and 25 smallholder farmers from each location (400 in total) recruited as project participants. Ethics approval was gained from the University of Sydney’s Animal and Human Research Committees.
All Year 1 training, intervention and survey activities have commenced. The first series of farmer training sessions was implemented in all 16 project locations, including forage plot development for improved cattle nutrition and biosecurity extension activities. Forage technology implementation provided an important project ‘entry’ intervention, building relationships and trust before the introduction of biosecurity interventions that focus on ruminant and poultry disease risk management. Training sessions were well-attended and involved women, highlighting the importance of women in day-to-day management of household livestock activities in Cambodian smallholder agricultural systems.
Due to an absence of forage seed production in Cambodia, seeds were imported from Thailand to ensure adopter farmers could develop their first forage plots during the 2015 wet season. In Year 1 a total of 165,900m2 (>2,300m2/adopter household) was planted. Administrative delays (project signing and funds transfer) meant a later than desired seed purchase is likely to have resulted in less than expected forage plantings in Year 1. Following severe regional drought in early to mid-2016, interest in forages has increased, particularly with farmers able to establish irrigation and with farmers wanting to make silage.
By mid-2016, three large surveys had been successfully implemented. The farmer knowledge, attitude and practice (KAP) survey involved 240 farmers (15 from each location), and was completed ahead of schedule in July 2015. This information provides an important baseline measure of smallholder livestock farmers’ KAP, enabling comparisons of the expected impacts from future interventions. These data have been summarised with analysis and reporting nearing completion. A survey of 80 Village Animal Health Workers (VAHWs) was completed in early 2016 within two project districts to provide an update on current VAHW practices (cf a survey was conducted in 2008). Results will identify current challenges, threats and opportunities in managing this important animal health resource in Cambodia. The first large-scale longitudinal cattle survey has commenced, with approximately 1,600 cattle weighed, vaccinated and ear-tagged in addition to farmers being surveyed to record production data. Repeat measures of these animals and farmers over the project’s duration will provide important quantitative data on impacts.
By mid-2016, 10 (3 in 2015, 7 in 2016) University of Sydney students, supported by New Colombo Plan and AsiaBound scholarships, travelled to Cambodia to participate in project-aligned research activities. This has provided an important opportunity for Australian veterinary and animal science students interested in international agricultural and food security research to gain a unique experience. This initiative has also facilitated links with the Royal University of Agriculture (RUA), with several University of Sydney students working in the RUA veterinary clinic alongside Cambodian veterinary students.
In summary, the project has had a very successful Year 1, with activities predominantly aimed at establishing project sites, implementing project entry interventions (including vaccinations and forage), and conducting baseline surveys. This work has established a strong foundation for further project developments and the measurement of impacts from activities planned in Years 2 and 3. Dr Suon Sothoeun presented a project summary to the Cambodian Minister of Agriculture on 27 May 2016 that highlighted the importance of this project as offering a potential model for livestock biosecurity and productivity improvement for implementation at the village level.
After the initial delays experienced in the first year of the project, the second year has been successful in achieving implementation milestones. Year two activities have built upon the training activities delivered in the first year, improving capacity of smallholder farmers and Village Animal Health Workers (VAHW).
The mid-project review meeting on 13 October 2016 was attended by 20 delegates from the University of Sydney (USyd), Department of Animal Health and Production (DAHP), Cambodia and Royal University of Agriculture, Cambodia. The meeting showcased achievements from inception to October 2016.
The second year of the project has delivered success in the management of livestock diseases of economic importance with successful vaccination campaigns for project farmer owned large ruminants against foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) and haemorrhagic septicaemia (HS) and poultry against Newcastle disease, fowl cholera and fowl pox. The second longitudinal data collection indicated animal ear tag retention of 97.3%. The improved uptake of ear tags will continue to contribute to the development of disease control systems. Biosecurity practices continue to be promoted in project sites. However, Knowledge, Attitude and Practice (KAP) surveys indicate that further work is required to raise knowledge and adoption to effective levels.
Forage uptake and maintenance has been promising, with future activities focused on the utilisation of silage to preserve surplus forage production. However, there was a delay in onset of the 2016-17 wet season which resulted in many farmers supplying friends and family with their surplus forage rather than conserving as silage for their own use. Bantheay Srey district farmers were growing at least 1,000 m2 of forage each despite the concerns of increased water scarcity.
Successful training activities included forage cultivation techniques, management, silage making and urea treatment with rice straw. The workshops were open to provincial and district officers and smallholder farmers and were conducted in Takeo and Tboung Khmum provinces with 30 participants attending in each location. Female participation has been growing in these activities.
Preliminary reproductive data obtained from the longitudinal surveys suggests low birth rates and a delayed onset of puberty in cattle. Interventions based on findings from AH/2005/086 have been identified and have begun to be incorporated into project activities. Further research is required to monitor future impacts of adopted interventions.
The longitudinal farmer and livestock production survey continues with data collection aiming for every six to twelve months. Preliminary findings have indicated average daily weight gains of 0.1-0.25 kg. However, cattle prices have been reported to have fallen by 30-50% since 2016. This may be attributable to the loss of the Vietnamese market following considerable imports of Australian cattle. As a result, some farmers have turned to poultry, and occasionally pig farming, as their primary livestock income.
Work has continued on the development of a local language online biosecurity training tool and online disease reporting platform. Discussions have included external stakeholders for ongoing financial support and it is predicted to be incorporated into the project within the next 12 months. The development of a streamlined disease monitoring and reporting system is required to address likely under-reporting in current systems. Furthermore VAHW surveys have indicated that the majority of their income is generated from treatments, indicating the need to develop a preventative medicine business approach.
Champion farmer case studies have indicated encouraging socioeconomic results. Average annual incomes from cattle and manure were recorded at US$ 5,514 and livestock and forages contributed to 62% of household income. Time savings of at least 2 hours were attributed to the use of forages for livestock feeding, allowing children to spend more time in education activities and adults maximising on and off-farm income generating activities.