May 13, 2022

The ASPIRE program produces increased agricultural production for innovative farmers

On the lush, verdant farmland owned by farmer Young Ly in Prasat Bakorng district of Siem Reap province, bok choy and cauliflower fill the land in abundance. Next to it is a hall covered with a net: a new “technical agricultural land” of 240 square meters which houses a production of yellow cauliflower, one of the last species of crops imported into Cambodia.

The hall, also known as the net house, is the new initiative of the Agricultural Services Program for Innovation, Resilience and Extension (ASPIRE), a new government program supported by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD ).

ASPIRE was created with the aim of reducing poverty and increasing the resilience of poor and vulnerable smallholder farmers in Cambodia.

“Our goal is to improve the existing Cambodian model of agricultural services to demonstrate that, with a few modifications, it can still be effective in helping a diversity of smallholder farmers contribute to widespread economic growth through profitable agricultural enterprises and resilient,” Soun Seyla, ASPIRE adviser in Siem Reap province, told The Post.

Originally designed to last 7 years, from 2015 to 2021, the program was extended until 2023 in light of the global Covid-19 pandemic.

ASPIRE moved to Siem Reap in 2019 and has been implemented in all provinces of the country since then except Phnom Penh. It organizes the farmers according to poles of activity as varied as the culture of vegetables and rice and the breeding of cattle.

The program has appointed a chief and deputy chief in each province to teach and advise farmers on growing and raising animals, as well as to establish links with local and regional markets.

Ly was selected as one of the leaders, also known in the program as the lead farmers.

A farmer in the net house, the new technical innovation from ASPIRE. Photo provided

“To get to where I am as a lead farmer, I was trained in all the strategies introduced by ASPIRE. After my first harvest, I could really see the difference these techniques made [on my cultivation] and improved by learning from program evaluations, eventually becoming qualified for the role of lead farmer.

“My role as lead farmer means that if there are any farmers nearby who have questions or need advice on their crop, I will be there to help them and share my experience,” Ly said.

The program has taught farmers innovative techniques that save them time and resources, including planting their crops in netting and protecting livestock from disease through vaccination. In addition to raising animals for subsistence, the program also encourages farmers to do so for export or sale, to improve their family’s livelihood.

ASPIRE deploys six main extension delivery instruments. They must contract out, establish public-private partnerships, provide support to agricultural cooperatives or farmers’ organizations and offer a direct public extension service.

“There are no conditions or obligations for service users to give back to the program. Since ASPIRE has mainly received funding from IFAD and the government, it will help cover everything from teaching farmers new technical knowledge, to providing investment and connecting them to the market by encouraging them to cultivate several types of crops and teaching them about seasonal demand,” Seyla said.

Once the program has been completed by the farmers, the investments – such as net houses, wells, solar panels, poultry cages, tillers and plant seeds – will be handed over to the lead farmer to distributes them according to the individual needs of each participating farmer.

“For example, with the net house we gave to Ly, he was able to grow yellow cauliflower there and he is the one who will later help to expand knowledge and promote the programs to neighboring farmers. , thus opening up the program to more people who could benefit from it, as well as share their knowledge,” he said.

Ly says he’s excited about what he sees as the many benefits, in particular, of the clean house in growing all-season crop varieties. “In the greenhouse, we can grow anything regardless of the season, whereas if we grow some plants outside during the rainy season, they spoil or rot easily.

“So I try to grow a variety of different plants in the net house. I used to grow white cauliflower, potatoes, chilli, marrow, and now I grow bok choy,” did he declare.

The 32-year-old lead farmer says he notices big differences between the regular white cauliflower he grew in the past and the yellow one, which he uses technical cultivation methods to grow.

Content Image - Phnom Penh Post

The farmers said the yellow cauliflower originated in China and has been grown in Cambodia for a few years now. Photo provided

Notably, he says the yellow type is much more convenient to plant. Despite the noticeable effects of climate change on his other crops, for him yellow cauliflower still produces great yields, saying that out of the 100kg he plants he can usually expect to harvest “around 90kg”. .

In contrast, yields of white cauliflower can often be severely damaged by bad weather or pests and animals, resulting in yields as low as 30 kg. As an added bonus, yellow cauliflower can often fetch around 500-1,000 riels more than white.

For Ly, the harvest takes about 55 to 60 days, or about two months. “I can pick up between one and a half and two tonnes, both outside and inside the net during the dry season. As for the rainy season, when I can only grow in the net, I can expect to get around 200-300 kg yields.

Growing yellow cauliflower doesn’t present many challenges, Ly says, except that the seed is slightly more expensive than white, and harder to find. During the dry season, the yellow variety attracts more insects, which proves frustrating when the cauliflower is small. But he says keeping an eye on them during this time means it won’t usually be a problem when he gets older.

“Before, before joining ASPIRE, I grew plants only to support my family, without any proper technique. But after joining the program, I learned how to grow different plants and now know when it’s best to harvest and use just the right amount of pesticide.

“I am happy to be able to earn more and to be able to share what I have learned with other farmers. Together, we can increase the country’s agricultural yields and products,” Ly says.

For more information on the program, go to Twitter @ASPIRE.MAFF.