Cambodia: Sustainable Livelihoods and Environment
Over 75% people in Cambodia live in the countryside, making their living from small-scale agriculture, fishing and occasional labour and small businesses. Their livelihoods are primarily dependent on available natural resources and are influenced by factors which are often beyond their control. For example, a delayed or short rainy season means the loss of a great part of a household’s harvest and thus minimal income and food availability for the following months. Limited support provided to small-scale farmers, insufficiently developed markets, environmental degradation and large companies-driven grabbing of land used by poor farmers all limit the opportunities for improving livelihoods of rural Cambodians.
People in Need (PIN) focuses on development of agricultural production of poor and at the same time of the most motivated farmers living in rural areas (where 93% of the poorest Cambodians live). Through the development of counseling, veterinary, technical and other services available on the market we help people to improve their livelihoods and escape the cycle of poverty. PIN cooperates closely with local non-governmental organisations, the private sector, Provincial Departments of Agriculture and local authorities.
Biogas energy solutions
People in Need has joined forces with the National Biodigester Program (NBP) in developing a market-based biodigester sector in fourteen Cambodian provinces. Domestic biodigesters are underground constructions, where decomposing animal excrement releases a combination of methane and carbon dioxide, which is then easily harnessed as a fuel for kitchen gas stoves and lamps. Thus, families gain a convenient source of energy and do not need to purchase firewood or cook in smoke-filled rooms anymore. The by-product of biogas production – bioslurry – also provides farmers with a regular and potent supply of organic fertiliser which can be utilised to improve crop yields and also as a feed source for livestock production and aquaculture.
Thanks to reduced firewood burning, the utilization of methane from decomposing animal waste and replacement of chemical fertilizers with organic fertilisers, emissions of greenhouse gases fall annually by 4.01 tons per biodigester. Biodigester units also provide significant livelihood benefits to rural families, by generating an average annual value of $182 per family (from savings on fuel wood and chemical fertiliser purchases along with increases in crop yields). Thanks to the programs support, more than 22, 000 families have chosen to purchase a biodigester unit in Cambodia, benefitting around 118,000 rural people. A recent agricultural census found that close to a million households have the option to improve their living conditions by installing a biodigester in their home.
Biodigesters are promoted and constructed by local private companies trained by NBP, PIN and external contractors, who also monitor their quality and provide support to starting businesses. Every family that buys the domestic biodigester and has it built in compliance with recommended quality standards is eligible to receive a subsidy from the program. Thanks to these contributions, the purchase price of biodigesters is reduced and even less well-off families can afford this technology. More than 3129 biodigesters have been built in Cambodia with the support of the Czech Development Agency (CZDA). The latest consumer survey (2015 Biogas User Survey) shows that 96% of surveyed customers expressed satisfaction with the performance of their biodigester.
Together with NBP, People in Need support the development of after-sales services for biodigester owners in rural areas. Trained local technicians make minor repairs for a small fee, sell spare parts and advise people how to ensure that their biodigester operates smoothly. As a result, 261 private technicians have helped 11,130 biogas users gain the maximum benefits out of their biodigesters. PIN also works with NBP to support the establishment of model farmers that play an important role in disseminating best practices to farmers on bioslurry and compost usage to help them improve their crop and livestock production.
Solar energy solutions
Cambodia has one of the lowest electrification rates in South East Asia. While Cambodia is a low‐income country, the cost of electricity is one of the highest in the world. In the 2011‐2014 timeframe around 34% of people in Cambodia had access to electricity. Even when available, rural households pay more for electricity than urban residents. If grid connection is not available more than half of all households make use of car batteries, while others use dry cell batteries, candles or kerosene lamps. This energy use is inefficient, inconvenient, environmentally unsustainable and costly. Due to the inefficiency of these energy technologies the poor pay higher unit costs than more affluent people, with rural households spending 10‐15% of their monthly income on fuel and electricity. Solar energy provides a valuable opportunity for Cambodia's economic development by increasing rural communities access to affordable and clean power.
Since 2014, PIN has been working in close cooperation with Kamworks solar enterprise to support their distribution networks through the establishment and training of rural solar entrepreneurs. Thus far, more than 60 solar entrepreneurs have been selected, trained and coached (with an additional 250 entrepreneurs to be established over the next 2 years) to sell Solar Home Systems (SHS), increasing the access of rural communities to high quality solar products and servicing. PIN works closely with Kamworks to provide technical advice and field based support to Kamworks promotion and marketing approaches.
Recognising that one of the key constraints to greater uptake of solar technologies in Cambodia is negative perceptions towards the quality of solar products, the project also works with PicoSol Cambodia – a local solar NGO – to support a variety of awareness raising activities on solar technology. This includes support for promoting the ‘Solar Laor‘ quality label, Cambodia's first accreditation and quality control system for solar companies and their products. Along with helping to build the market demand for solar products, these awareness raising activities are also aimed at improving the income generated by rural sales entrepeneurs.
Pesticides increase agricultural production through the reduction of pests and diseases and related crop loss. But continuous reliance on pesticides in agriculture poses serious threats to both the ecosystem and human health. The continued use of highly toxic pesticides, banned in many countries, has high social and environmental costs.
The ‘What’s in our food’ project aims to determine the pesticide levels in vegetables available in Cambodian fresh food markets and seeks ways to reduce the risk if the levels are found to be above those international recommended.
Livestock sector development
The ‘Civil Society, Authorities and Markets for Sustainable Community Animal Production, Livelihoods and Environment’ (CAM-4-SCALE) project aims to improve the livelihoods of more than 50,000 smallholder livestock farmers across 8 target provinces in Cambodia (Battambang, Pursat, Kampong Chhnang, Kampong Speu, Takeo, Prey Veng, Svey Rieng, Kampot Provinces), by building on and scaling up the achievements of the CLIMAD livestock development project. Between 2016-2018, the EU-funded CAM-4-SCALE project will strengthen both the veterinary services sector, and the capacities of the private sector, grassroots farmer groups, local NGOs and relevant authorities. The project is being implemented by PIN in cooperation with national NGOs CIRD, PNKA, and EPDO, the Provincial Offices of Animal Health and Production and relevant sections of the Cambodian Government. With a total budget of 1.4 million USD and a team of more than 40 staff, CAM-4-SCALE is one of the largest livestock market development projects in the region.
The project will be closely coordinated with another 2-year livestock project that PIN is implementing, called the “Project to Strengthen Village Animal Health Workers (VAHW) Capacity and System to Boost incomes in Cambodia”. The lead on this project is Agronomes et Vétérinaires Sans Frontières (AVSF), along with another implementing partner the Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO). The project is improving the capacities and veterinary services of 2100 new and existing VAHWs across 6 target provinces (Pursat, Kampong Chhnang, Kampong Speu, Takeo, Prey Veng, Svey Rieng).
Both projects form part of the civil society grants function of the European Union (EU) financed programme: ‘Promotion of inclusive and sustainable growth in the agriculture sector: fisheries and livestock’, being implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF). PIN welcomes cooperation with other results-driven agencies.
Improving Livelihoods in Rural Areas of Kampong Chhnang province
From 2011 to 2012 People in Need supported two local partner organizations in the development of the livelihoods of 800 poor families from 21 villages in Kampong Chhnang Province. Through practical trainings in more effective agriculture production practices, followed by the provision of investment grants and subsequent coaching, many families were able to transform their small fields and animal husbandry into medium-sized businesses, generating a significant source of income.
Within the program, we cooperated closely with local veterinarians, experienced farmers, employees of the Provincial Department of Agriculture and local authorities to achieve the maximum benefits for the most motivated poor families. Furthermore, People in Need has provided all partner organizations with systematic support that focuses on the improvement of their technical, managerial and fundraising abilities so they are able to work effectively on the development of their region in the future without assistance from international organizations.
Development of a market-oriented sector with domestic biodigesters
People in Need has joined forces with the National Biodigester Program (NBP) in developing a market-based biodigester sector in twelve Cambodian provinces. Domestic biodigesters are underground constructions, where decomposing animal excrement releases a combination of methane and carbon dioxide, which is then easily harnessed as a fuel for kitchen gas stoves and lamps. Thus, families gain a convenient source of energy and do not need to purchase firewood or cook in smoke-filled rooms anymore. Thanks to reduced firewood burning, the utilization of methane from decomposing animal waste and replacement of chemical fertilizers by natural ones, emissions of greenhouse gases fall annually by 4.01 tons per one biodigester.
Biodigesters are promoted and constructed by local private companies trained by NBP, PIN and external contractors, who also control their quality and provide support to starting businesses. Every family that buys the domestic biodigester and has it built in compliance with recommended quality standards gets a subsidy. Thanks to these contributions, the purchase price of biodigesters is reduced and even less well-off families can afford it. With the support of Czech development cooperation, more than 2,267 biodigesters were built in Cambodia.
Together with NBP, People in Need supports the development of after-sales services for owners of biodigesters in rural areas. Trained local technicians make minor repairs for a small fee, sell spare parts and advise people how to ensure that their biodigester operates smoothly. As a result, more than 150 private technicians have helped 7,000 families to get the maximum benefits out of their biodigester.
Community Livestock Market Development (CLIMAD)
CLIMAD’s team enabled more than 300 local veterinarians, veterinary companies and local shops to improve the quality, accessibility and demand for private, community-based veterinary and livestock marketing services. As a result, farmers were able to boost their incomes from livestock production while service providers increased their profits, generating win-win solutions for addressing livestock smallholders’ needs. In fact, farmers in the project increased their average income from poultry raising more than fivefold and animal health workers more than doubled their average monthly income. Close cooperation with local and provincial governments also enabled farmers to advocate for the ongoing support they need.
Farmers interested in livestock production were encouraged to form informal livestock groups, through which they gained better access to both veterinary services and technical information on animal raising practices. Animal health workers benefited from training and coaching on a range of topics, including animal raising techniques, disease identification and treatment, and presentation and communication skills, in order to provide professional services and counselling to the farmers. They were also helped to establish and improve veterinary shops selling much needed veterinary products to farmers in rural areas. This included support to improve the cool chain management system used by shop owners, critical for maintaining the quality of livestock vaccines.
More information is available in the project’s final evaluation report and in an overview video.