The government has entered negotiations to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for implementation of the “Smart Farm Project”, an initiative of the South Korean government.
Ngin Chhay, representing the General Directorate of Agriculture under the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and Harry Hwang, executive director and founder of the Cambodian Korean Economic and Cultural Exchange Federation (CKEF), met earlier this week to discuss groundwork for signing an MoU.
According to a statement from the ministry, Chhay briefed Hwang on the circumstances of the agricultural sector in Cambodia, noting challenges which have hindered development, including low-tech production practices with modest yields and surplus production without sufficient market access, among others.
“Seeing the growth of the agricultural sector and potential for agricultural sub-sector development, CKEF representatives are interested and intend to sign an MoU between the ministry and Konkuk University of the Republic of Korea for the smart farm development project,” Hwang said, noting that much prelimary work still needed to be done.
The cooperative project will entail establishing a national technical training centre, providing training courses for technical officers and farmers in the capital and provinces, developing crops on an area of about 100ha and researching potential crops for production and marketing.
Hwang said he and the CKEF team will need a month and a half prior to the signing of the MoU in order to work out the details because the team will first need to consult with experts at Konkuk University.
He also mentioned that travel arrangements for the delegation from South Korea to participate in the signing ceremony would be complicated in light of the Covid-19 situation and the quarantine requirements implemented by both countries.
“If there are no unforeseen obstacles encountered, then the signing of the MoU will be held as soon as mid-March,” Hwang said.
Chhay agreed to the CKEF representative’s request and then asked that the working group of the General Department of Agriculture cooperate and maintain communications, exchange views and share information with CKEF representatives in order for the signing of the MoU to happen on schedule.
“We have discussed his interest in importing modern technology or innovative methods like growing with net houses and his idea was to create a large agricultural research centre in Cambodia and he said he needed 100ha of land to build it on,” Chhay said.
“Assuming we agree, then they do have the necessary expertise from either their universities or in collaboration with the private sector to do a location study in Cambodia to determine which area of what province might be the most appropriate site for that,” he said.
Agriculture minister Veng Sakhon said the ministry has been working on this for almost two months now to prepare a draft study on this project. But he noted that the most important thing was to concentrate on disseminating new technologies to farmers in Cambodia because most of them are not really aware of “smart farming” practices.
According to Sakhon, Mondulkiri province might be chosen as the site of this project because it has cold weather and can grow local produces that are indigenous to Cambodia’s central region that won’t grow elsewhere in the country.
“I travelled there to check on the location [recently]. As a second option we would have to go with Stung Treng province because we already have land there next to the Sesan 2 dam.
“Mondulkiri can turn the site into a potato seed research centre and also study other crops suitable to upland and colder regions to build diversity in Cambodia’s domestic supply of agricultural products instead of importing them from other countries,” the minister said.