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Cambodia’s agriculture sector to receive a boost from Grow Asia partnership

Jenny Costelloe, Director of Country Partnerships, explained how Grow Asia works.
Jenny Costelloe, Director of Country Partnerships, explained how Grow Asia works. Pha Lina

Cambodia’s agriculture sector to receive a boost from Grow Asia partnership

Cambodia’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) announced this week that it was entering in to a full-scale partnership with Grow Asia, part of the World Economic Forum, to boost the productivity and sustainability of the country’s agriculture sector.

Grow Asia, which is also a partner of the ASEAN secretariat, acts as a forum where different stakeholders in agriculture, from farmers all the way up to governments and multi-national corporations, can come together to develop sustainable and inclusive agricultural practices.

Grow Asia is expected to officially announce its part in the partnership today.

“Now, we are creating a partnership – a partnership between the private sector and the producers. We want to link our farmers from the field to the markets so that they can receive reasonable prices for their crops,” said His Excellency Ty Sokhun, secretary of state at MAFF.

The announcement that Grow Asia would set up a permanent secretariat in Cambodia and would also host a regional forum in the capital next spring, was made at a lunch hosted by the International Business Chamber of Cambodia (IBC)

IBC has played a lead role in establishing ties between the World Economic Forum and Grow Asia and Cambodia’s public and private sector as it works to improve the business climate in the Kingdom to encourage foreign direct investment and sustainable business practices.

Grow Asia has already established country partnerships in Vietnam, Indonesia, Myanmar and the Philippines, where it is working with stakeholders to address issues affecting the productivity of farmers growing certain crops.

During a presentation at the lunch forum, Jenny Costelloe, Director of Country Partnerships at Grow Asia, used the example of Indonesian coffee to show how Grow Asia works.

By introducing better training, helping establish micro-loans to farmers and working with a major multi-national company on pricing and quality, Costelloe said Grow Asia had managed to improve the output and the productivity of dozens of Indonesian coffee farmers who were able to deliver better produce to their clients for a better price.

Costelloe said that in the initial stage of Grow Asia’s presence in Cambodia it would be devoting time to finding out who the key stakeholders in the agriculture sector were, what the major issues were affecting farmer’s productivity and then working to build relationships that would strengthen the sector.

She said the crops that Grow Asia would focus on in Cambodia to begin with would be rice, vegetables, chilli pepper, cassava, corn and rubber. She said this was just a preliminary list and it was likely that Grow Asia would also look at fisheries and livestock as other areas where they could make a difference.

What is Grow Asia?

A subsidiary of the World Economic Forum, Grow Asia is a catalyst initiative for ASEAN in developing food security and sustainable growth, especially in the agriculture sector.

It has strong global business support with more than 100 partners, including 65 companies, including multinational companies (MNCs) Nestle, Unilever, and Cargill.

It places great emphasis on being locally led and establishing a secretariat in every country where they have established initiatives; Cambodia is now in line after the successful inauguration of Grow Asia in Indonesia, Myanmar, Vietnam, and the Philippines.

It works within a multi-stakeholder partnership that covers all sectors—Companies, Research, Government, Civil Society, Farmers’ Association, Donors— to accelerate the benefits in environmentally-friendly agriculture processes as well as to alleviate poverty in that particular country.

Grow Asia is the only organisation in the world that involves farmers and provides a platform for these smallholders to voice their opinions.

Its partnerships with MNCs will help to educate the local agricultural sector on quality control and focus on best practices.

Grow Asia’s long-term plans include increasing farmer profitability by 20 per cent by 2020, in order for farmers to be more involved in the value chain and get a fair price for their produce, and working towards a 20 per cent improvement in environmental sustainability such as less greenhouse gases, carbon emissions, and agro-chemicals.

Grow Asia’s focus in Cambodia would be to involve MNCs in developing their investments in the value chains that are available here as there is massive potential in the Kingdom’s agriculture sector.

Its major challenge would be to identify who would be the pioneers and champions rallying for Grow Asia’s initiative in Cambodia.

Grow Asia hopes to see working groups, as well the local secretariat, fully formed and up and running by the end of 2016.