Climate-smart farming pays off
Innovative program focuses on increasing profits for small-scale farmers
Tork Noeurt made a living working as a laborer across the border in Thailand. Like many Cambodians, he and his wife Vorn Loeurm would leave their children with relatives while they traveled back and forward.
But when COVID-19 broke out and the border was closed, the 37-year-old father of two was forced to look for another way to earn a living and provide for his family.
iDE powers Noeurt's new cucumber crop
It was about this time he became involved with iDE. With support from a program known as Climate Smart Commercial Horticulture Cambodia (CSmart), Noeurt, who lives in Banteay Meanchey province, began growing cucumbers.
CSmart is a 5-year, US$5 million program aiming to boost the incomes of local farmers, build value chains and strengthen farmer resilience to changing weather patterns, by training people to use climate-smart technologies and connecting them to robust market systems.
In Noeurt’s case, iDE agronomists suggested he grow cucumbers because the cash crop could be grown at any time during the year, unlike rice, which requires more water and is preferred by most local farmers.
Noeurt was provided with technical support from iDE as he installed drip irrigation, wind-resistant trellising, and raised beds. He also added composting, manuring, and a nursery house with shade netting, and other practices he learned from CSmart.
Reaping the rewards of climate-smart agriculture
From this first crop, Noeurt harvested 4.5 tons of cucumbers, making a profit of US$156 in just two months. Immediately after the first crop, he planted a second crop on the same plot. This time he yielded 6.2 tons making a profit of US$1,261 in the same time frame.
“I’ve learned that vegetable growing can provide higher profits and is faster than rice production,” said Noeurt. “You will definitely get successful in production if you have knowledge and know-how”
Noeurt says he and Loeurm won’t be traveling back to Thailand to work as he believes he can earn enough money staying home, growing vegetables.
Earnings to increase by more than annual incomes
Funded by the New Zealand government, CSmart is targeting 6,000 farmers. It is part of a broader program, the Cambodia Agribusiness Development Facility, being implemented by iDE, which has been running for 17 years and is also funded by New Zealand.
CADF identified market opportunities for small scale farmers, provided technical support on climate resilient technologies and safe practices of agrochemicals, and assisted with value chain and agribusiness development
CSmart aims to increase earnings of participants on average by US$1,700 a year – more than the annual income of the average Cambodian household. (In 2020, GDP per capita in Cambodia was US$1512.7, according to The World Bank.)
iDE Cambodia country director Kevin Robbins said CSmart was remarkable not only because it was combating climate change and poverty, but because every dollar spent on the program had generated a return on investment.
“At iDE we don’t believe in giving people handouts,” said Robbins. “Instead, this program is powering subsistence farmers, lifting them out of poverty by showing them how to transform their farms into successful small businesses.”
He said CSmart had been successful because it built entrepreneurial mindsets among farmers and market actors, and used a strong evidence-based approach to measure impact.
“By encouraging farmers to plant new, high-value crops, CSmart helps build value chains that link farmers to robust market ecosystems, significantly boosting their incomes and enhancing food security.”
CSmart will run until late 2024 and has a long-term goal of contributing to the “stability, prosperity, resilience and security initiatives” of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.