Securing Food While Caring for the Field: A Case of Rice Farmers in Kampong Speu, Cambodia

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 10:30 AM
Room: Booth 61
Oral Presentation
Rany PEN , Gender and Cultural Studies, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
Since the adoption of Rice Export Policy, Cambodian rice export market has emerged and the country recently joined the top ten rice exporters. While nationally it produces surplus, many poor rice farmers cannot produce enough for home consumption. Small farmland, unfertilized soil, unsecured land ownership, limited access to irrigated water and unpredictable precipitation are some major causes of their low productivity.

Furthermore, around 43% of rural population depends on purchased foods. The increase of export volume potentially puts more pressure on these consumers, especially the poor, because it is uplifting local prices to as close as the international prices.

Facing food insecurity and having to cope with agricultural production challenges, some smallholders still continue their conventional approach of sustainable land use. Instead of trying to increase productivity through using chemical inputs, these rice farmers choose to preserve and improve their soil quality using organic fertilizers. This is particular for poor smallholders interviewed in Kampong Speu province.

Because rice farming alone is not enough and with limited supports from Government, alternative coping mechanisms that these farmers have adopted include diversified agriculture activities i.e. vegetable home garden, crops farming, livestock raising; seasonal agricultural and non-agricultural works within the village, in nearby villages, or in neighbouring countries; and work related migration to industrial towns.

Using data from a fieldwork conducted in Cambodia early 2013, this presentation will examine these above approaches undertaken by farmers in a district in Kampong Speu province. All interviewees, except two, are part of livelihood programme supported by a local organization, Action for Research and Development, which recruits these beneficiaries based on their economic and social status: families without or with small farm land; families with many children; families that are heavily indebted; poor families with disabled members; or elderly people without support from their children.