Planning for improving household food production and income from vegetables

4Ruot Dy is, 28 years old, married with 2 children. She is a woman member of the pilot farmer field school who lives in Anlong Kranh village, Popok commune, Stoung district, Kampong Thom province. Ruot Dy and her husband (31 years old) rely on agriculture to support the family’s livelihood and income. There are only 2 family members (Ruot Dy and her husband) who are the main labour force in the family while the two children are still young (5 years old and 2 years old).

Rice cultivation is conducted to produce staple food for the family consumption. However, the yield was very low, only 0.54 t/ha, which is much below the national average. The main income source for the family is from cassava and cashew nuts, about 5 to 6 million riels per year (approximately 1,250 to 1,500 USD/year).

Vegetable production and chicken rearing were conducted to produce supplement food for the family consumption, so the family did not generate any income from vegetables and chickens. However, the expense of buying external food is reducing if the family can produce food for own consumption.  Actually, the purpose of chicken rearing is not only to produce food, but also to make income for the family, but high mortality rate of the chicken limited this expectation.

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Ruot Dy was selected to become a member of the pilot FFS by the Life and Nature project extension officer because she is fit to the selection criteria, for example, she was applying the vegetable growing, vulnerable to climate change variation, and young farmer family, etc. She attended 7 out of 10 training sessions of the pilot FFS, and she has learned different topics on:

  • Seed selection / climate tolerant variation
  • Soil preparation
  • Soil fertility improvement (e.g. compost making)
  • Integrated pest management (IPM), botanical pesticide
  • Water management (e.g. water harvesting, water use efficiency…)
  • Harvesting and post-harvest management

Due to the prolonged drought in this year, Ruot Dy could not grow vegetables for this period of time. She is planning to apply what she learned from the pilot FFS in the next planting season when the rainwater is available. After attending the pilot FFS, she is encouraged to upgrade herself from subsistence farmer to commercial farmers. Now, she has a specific plan to expand the vegetable production, first start the vegetable growing inside the homestead area, then manage to do vegetable growing in a bigger land, which is located about 1 km from her homestead. She mentioned that the new arable land is accessible to a water source that is why she is interested in moving the vegetable growing to that area. Currently, there is one family growing vegetables in that area using underground water.

Ruot Dy mentioned that market demand for vegetables is not the problem in her community. The number of producers is less while many villagers could not produce for their own consumption. Therefore, the vegetables can be easily sold to neighbouring families, communal market, district market, etc. At present, there is a vegetable seller from Prolay commune, which is about 15 km away from her community come and sell vegetables to the villagers. Ruot Dy and her husband have strong intention and commitment and they will work together to improving vegetable production for market supply.

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Improved resilient livelihood through diversified agriculture productions and income sources

20160421_110126Mr. Phoun Phea is, 36 years old, a member of the pilot farmer field school of the FAO’s Life and Nature project. Phoun Phea lives in Anlong Kranh village, Popok commune, Stoung district, Kampong Thom province with 8 family members. Both husband and wife clearly share their roles in making food and incomes for the family. Phoun Phea is mostly involved in the daily agricultural activities while his wife does a small business in front of a primary school.  The family makes income from both on-farm and off-farm activities, however, the agriculture is still the main source of family’s food and income sources.

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As mentioned above, the vegetable growing is only possible in the rainy season when the rainwater is available, and he could produce vegetables for own consumption from June to August, which is about 3 months per year. Therefore, the family still lacked vegetable for family consumption throughout the year and has not yet produced surplus vegetables for selling.

It is to note that the FAO’s Life and Nature project partnered with Provincial Department of Agriculture (PDA) to implement pilot FFS on climate smart vegetable growing from February to May 2016. Two government counterparts from PDA (at the provincial level) and DOA (at district level) performed as trainer and trainer assistant with logistical support and arrangement from the Life and Nature project extension officer.

Phuon Phea cooperated with the FAO’s Life and Nature project in February 2016 by regularly attending the pilot farmer field school that was implemented from February to May 2016. At the same time, he is also a cooperating farmer of the ADB Tonle Sap Poverty Reduction and Smallholder Development project. He is a management committee member of the revolving fund group established and supported by the ADB project. Phuon Phea is an active person and always interests to learn new skills and knowledge for improving the livelihood of his family. The main reason he decided to join the pilot FFS because he expected to learn new technical knowledge about climate smart vegetable growing as he wants to make income from vegetables. When women producer group to be established by the Life and Nature project, he is also interested in becoming a member of the producer group.

Through attending ten training sessions of the pilot FFS, he has improved a lot of technical understanding on the following key topics:

  • Basic concept of climate change
  • Soil preparation (seedbed, vegetable rows) for growing vegetables in the dry and wet seasons,
  • Soil fertility improvement (solid compost, liquid compost)
  • How to measure soil pH
  • How to make trellis
  • Selection to climate tolerant varieties
  • Water use efficiency techniques (e.g. using of organic matter to increase soil-water holding capacity, mulching…)
  • Integrated pest management, botanical pesticide

Phuon Phea has practised what he learned from the pilot FFS. He planted different vegetables such as yard long bean, wax gourd, water convolvulus in his garden, 20 m x 30 m located in the homestead area. As a result, he produced more quantity of vegetables for the family consumption, and the duration of having enough vegetables for family consumption has increased from 3 months per year to 4 months per year after attending the pilot FFS. Furthermore, he could also make an income of 30,000 riels from vegetables. Through the interview, he raised that he had never received any income from vegetables previously, but he could make an income from the water convolvulus after attending the FFS.

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To improve vegetable production, Phoun Phea has several plans as follows:

  • Dig pond for collecting rainwater (5 x 10 m, 3 m depth)
  • Improve roof water harvesting for domestic use and vegetable growing
  • Rehabilitate opened well, make it deeper in order to get more water
  • Improved understanding of water uses efficiency practices
  • Learn how to use chemical fertiliser with the appropriate way
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Participation of local authorities in vegetable farmer field school

20160419_144001Mr Theng Mao is, 61 years old, a cooperating farmer of the Life and Nature project. There are seven members in his family.He was a primary school principal in Lvea Krang commune, currently he is a member of a district council who is responsible for developing district development plan.

Agriculture is the main sources of his family’s food and income. He conducts different farming actitivities such as rice cultivation, cassava planting, chicken rearing, pig raising. Besides all of these farming activities, he also has a small rice mill to provide milling services for local people. Below table summarises major occupation and incomes:

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There were 12 farmers attended the pilot Farmer Field School in Kok Chan village, Lvea Krang commune, Mr. Theng Mao is one among the twelve farmers who regularly attended pilot farmer field school on vegetable growing from February to May 2016.  Through the participation in the pilot FFS, Mao has learned different topics related to the basic concept of climate change, planting techniques, compost making, botanical pesticide, the impact of the chemical pesticide on human health, environment and economic, and other climate-resilient cropping practices. He impressed that he could learn new knowledge and improved his understanding after attending the pilot FFS.

Vegetable growing is normally conducted in the rainy season when there is rainwater. Theng Mao grows vegetables in his backyard garden, near his homestead. The size of that vegetable garden is 50 square metres (5 m x 10 m). Those vegetables are eggplant, chilli, watermelon, cucumber, and pumpkin. The vegetable he produced is good for his family because he doesn’t need to spend money to buy vegetables from others, at the same time produce healthy vegetables for his family consumption.

The Life and Nature project will facilitate to set up the women producer group and support women to improve their market linkage. Even Theng Mao is not a woman, but he is also interested in joining the women producer group. He expected to grow vegetables for selling to markets, both neighbouring families and local markets. So, both men and women can join the women producer group, but women will dominate the group. Theng Mao has another land about 1 – 1.5 ha, located about 1 km from his home, where he is going to to grow vegetables for market supply. This bigger land would enable them to produce more vegetables compare to a small slot near the homestead.

Water source is still a challenge for growing vegetables. He planned to dig a well in order to get underground water for irrigation. The cost would be around 2 million riels. During the interview, he realised that using underground water is not really while many other farmers do the same, water table would be decreased. However, this is the only solution he has for now.

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Woman headed household struggles to make food and income for the family

20160426_105210Ms. Meak Savok is, 50 years old, a woman FFS member in Kuleng Chheung village, Kulen Chheung commune, Kulen district of Preah Vihear province. She has 2 children under her burden while her husband (45 years old) is the disabled person. So, she plays the role as the head of the family who carries out the whole family’s tasks.

Despite her husband is not the main labour force in her family, agriculture is still the main source of food and income. She is responsible for almost all of the farming activities with little support from her husband such as rice cultivation, chicken rearing, vegetable growing, wine distillation, etc. However, her husband also goes out to catch natural fishes sometimes in the rainy season. Major farming activities and incomes are described in the below table:

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From February to May 2016, the project partnered with Provincial Department of Agriculture (PDA-Preah Vihear) to run the pilot FFS. PDA staff at the provincial level acted as the FFS trainer, one counterpart from District Office of Agriculture (DOA) performed as the trainer assistance with the logistic arrangement from the project extension officer, FFS facilitator.

Savok is one among the twelve farmers who attended the pilot farmer field school (FFS). She impressed that the FFS training methodology is easy for her to understand new knowledge and technical practices. Learning by doing approach is used, normally FFS trainer conducted real practices or demonstration during the training, for example, the training on how to make botanical pesticide, visiting vegetable garden to discover pest insects, etc. She said that “these kinds of training methods are easy for the farmers to catch the understanding”.  Many training topics discussed and trained during the FFS training sessions such as basic concept of climate change, crop identification and selection, site selection, soil preparation, water storage and supply systems / water use efficiency, mulching, planting methods, weeding, integrated pest management (IPM) as well as harvesting and post-harvest management.

Due to the extreme drought in this year, she could only plant vegetables on a small plot of land. Her pond still has some water until May that can be used for growing the veggies. As she is the only one who work most on the farm, she currently uses a small water pump to pump water from the pond to irrigate vegetables in the garden. She spends only 2,500 riels to charge a battery of the water pump, then the battery can be used for pumping water for one week.  Increasing vegetable production for market supply is her intention, therefore, she is planning to enhance vegetable production and market as follows:

  • Attend another cycle of FFS on vegetable growing and to learn more detail about Integrated Pest Management (IPM),
  • Participate in the women producer group to cultivate vegetables for market supply. The purpose is to get stable and reasonable price for vegetables,
  • Set up the water supply system / drip irrigation system in the vegetable garden. This would help saving labour and time in carrying and watering the crops.
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Improved family vegetable production for home consumption and market supply

Heang Samrith is, 20 years old, a member of pilot farmer field school (FFS) of the Life and Nature project. She lives in Kok Chan village, Lvea Krang commune, Varin district, in Siem Reap province, with 3 members in her family. Only Samrith and her husband are the main labour force for farming.  Both Samrith and her husband help each other to farming activities in her family. For instance, the husband helps to prepare fence of the vegetable garden, prepare the soil and make vegetable rows, etc. Then, Samrith does daily caring for the crops, harvesting and selling. Her family relies on agriculture as the main source of food and income. Annually, she earned about 3.67 million riels from agriculture.20160419_084207

Samrith has 2 hectares of arable land, one hectare for rice cultivation and another one hectare for cassava planting. It is to note that rice is mainly produced for family consumption while cassava is cash crop produced for selling. Last year in 2015, she could make about two million riels (approx. 500 USD) from cassava. Besides rice and cassava, she also planted vegetables, three months in the rainy season from May to July. As usual, she plants different vegetables such as petsai, eggplant, bok choy, for her own family consumption and sells if surplus. Actually, Samrith wants to plant vegetables in bigger land and in the whole year, but she could not do it due to the lack of water. Currently, she has one drilled well (6 metres depth), and one pond (10 m x 5 m and 3 m depth) in her Chamkar. The table below provides Samrith’s estimated farming land, total harvest and income.

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From February to May 2016, Samrith attended the pilot FFS as she expected to learn new technical knowledge in climate resilient vegetable growing and want to become a member women producer group who produce vegetables for selling. She is one among 11 total FFS members in Kok Chan village. The pilot FFS was implemented by the Life and Nature project in partnership with Provincial Department of Agriculture (PDA-Siem Reap). She said that “I could learn and gain new knowledge of climate change concept, selection of climate resilient varieties, how to make botanical pesticide and compost through attending the FFS”. She added that “At the current time, the temperature is very hot, rainfall is erratic, so water harvesting and water use efficiency are very important”.

In the year 2016, prolonged drought and increase of temperature occurred in Lvea Krang commune which is difficult for Samrith to grow vegetables in full capability. Therefore, to adapt to this issues, she is planning to expand / rehabilitate her existing pond in Chamkar, which is about 150 metres away from her homestead. The water might be not enough if she expands the vegetable production in Chamkar. So, she would expand the pond – make it bigger and deeper to store more water.20160419_091104

Below is the summary of positive changes of Samrith’s families after attended the pilot FFS:

  • Be aware of climate change concept and climate resilient vegetable growing technique, so she would prepare better production plan in the future,
  • Have intention to become a member of women producer group as she expected to produce vegetables for selling,
  • Set-up clear plan to renew the water pond in order to0 improve water storage capacity (having more water for growing vegetables in the drier months),
  • Improved family development plan, good sharing of labour among the family (between wife and husband) to work on the farm. Both husband and wife discussed and agreed to expand vegetable production for increasing family income generation capacity,
  • Built solidarity and network with other FFS members in the village through regular participation in the FFS,
  • Improved communication and public speaking with others both community people and outsiders such as PDA staff, DOA staff, project extension officer, technical experts, etc.

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Support mission on farmer field school, women producer group, and watershed management committee establishment

From 18 to 29 April 2016, two field missions were conducted. The first mission was conducted to Siem Reap and Kampong Thom provinces, then the second mission to Preah Vihear and Ratanakiri provinces. The objectives of the mission were:

  • To provide technical assistance to the project extension officer to establish women producer group and to discuss LOA with Provincial Department of Women’s Affairs.
  • To discuss with provincial line department of PDoE, PDoA and PDoWR about watershed management committee establishment and to discuss their roles to support the processes of WSMC establishment in Taveng Lue Micro-Watershed.
  • To finalise and facilitate signing of the LOA by PDA
  • To conduct field monitoring / provide individual follow-up visit for pilot FFS members

The mission team members had carried out meetings with directors of the relevant provincial department to discuss cooperation, a group meeting with FFS members and interested farmers who are interested in women producer group, and conducted individual interview with FFS members about what they have learned from the pilot FFS and challenges in applying new ideas. In Lvea Krang commune, a meeting with commune extension officer (CEW) of the ADB project was organised to get the detail of revolving fund group management as well as another meeting with deputy chief to report the project progress and action plans for coming months. In Popok commune, the mission team members also participated in the tenth FFS session facilitated by PDA-Kampong Thom and the project extension officer.

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Farmer field school training in Anlong Kranh village, Popok commune, Stoung district, Kampong Thom province.

The formation of women producer group has been progressive in four target communes. In Popok and Kulen Chheung, the discussion on group structure as well as roles and responsibilities of executive committee is going on. In Popok, the potential group leaders already identified with the participation of group members. The next meeting will focus on the selection of executive committee through voting and democratic process. In Kulen Cheung, members of executive committee already selected. The following meeting will concentrate on tasks and responsibilities of executive members and members. The initial step of producer group formation has been begun in Lvea Krang and Taveng Leu. With the technical assistance of Gender and Livelihood Specialist, the mobilisation meetings were conducted. In Lvea Krang, Siem Reap, meeting with three existing groups (revolving fund for small-scale livelihoods) supported by ADB Tonle Sap project and interesting members of farmer field school.

In all 4 provinces, the meeting with the director and technical officials of the provincial department of women’s affairs conducted to discuss LOA technical contents and budget. The director of each department was welcoming our team and looking forward to more collaboration. The discussion enabled the partner to get more understanding of Letter of Agreement (LOA), especially their roles and duties, and how they work together as partners with the project team and other relevant departments to implement the project successfully. Building up human resource is a mandate of the department, however, the resource to do so is very limited. Thus, it was suggested to the project to consider allowing technical officials who may not work directly with the project to attend any capacity building training organised and supported by the project.20160419_103919

Through the individual interview, the majority of the FFS members understand well lessons that they have learned from the pilot FFS, but a shortage of water was the big challenge for them to grow vegetables in this season. Therefore, they delayed the vegetable growing until the beginning of the rainy season. Through the meeting with the provincial department directors, they are happy to cooperate with the project. It was requested to get LOA contents translated into Khmer. This would help technical officials as well as director of the department who are the main implementer to get familiar with deliverable outputs, key activities, timeframe, work plan and budget. WSMC’s establishment will be very important for commune watershed management to coordinate and facilitate the implementation process. The WSMC will play also very important roles too to integrate watershed issues into commune investment and commune development plan.

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Improved chicken rearing for indigenous farmers using farmer field school (FFS) approach

Taveng Leu commune is about 60 km northeast of Banlung provincial town of Ratanakiri province. The road from Banlung to Taveng Leu commune is difficult especially in the rainy season. More than 80% of the total population in the commune is indigenous people (Prov). Agriculture and non-timber forest products are their main sources of food and incomes. Livestock is also another source of livelihoods. Life and Nature project has 4 target villages in the commune. Few Non-Governmental Organizations currently working in the commune, such as Save Cambodia Wildlife (SCW), PLAN International etc.
The Ministry of Environment is the main counterpart of FAO in the implementation of the Life and Nature project in close partnership with aligning institutions to include Ministries of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries – General Directorate of Agriculture and Forestry Administration; Woman’s Affairs; Rural Development; Water Resources and Meteorology, etc. The objective of the project is to build adaptive capacity of rural communities and reduce their vulnerability to Climate Change through micro watershed management and climate resilient agriculture practices to ensure food security. The project’s on-the-ground efforts will take place within four locations: Lvea Krang commune, Varin District, Siem Reap Province; PoPok Commune, Stoung District, Kampong Thom Province; Ta Veaeng Leu Commune, Ta Veaeng District, Ratanak Kiri Province; and, Kulen Chheung Commune, Kulen District, Preah Vihear Province in four commune micro watersheds that cover a total area of 59455 hectares and has a population of ~9793.

Life and Nature project conducted a climate change vulnerability and impact assessment (VIA) to assess vulnerability and adaptation measures of the community. Capacity building on chicken rearing was raised by the interviewed respondents during the VIA. Chicken raising is commonly applied by the people in the commune, but the result was not so good. No proper care and regular feeding provided, and chicken frequently eaten by other wildlife. Some chickens died when the indigenous farmers cross the Sesan River from the village center to Chamkar. By this reason, Life and Nature project cooperated with the Provincial Department of Agriculture (PDA-Ratanakiri) to implement a pilot FFS. Mr. Bunsong, technical official from PDA was the trainer and Mr. Leang Sambath, project extension officer acted as the FFS facilitator. An officer from the district office of agriculture (DOA) also assisted in implementing the FFS. In total, 12 young farmers attended the FFS, from February to April 2016. Eight training sessions organized on breed selection, caring of chicks and chicken, preparation of chicken house, chicken pen/biosafety fence, mobile cage, feeding, vaccination, etc.

The farmers have improved their chicken rearing techniques after attending the farmer field school such as confine big and small chickens separately, provide mixed feed to chicken, get vaccination for their chicken, provide clean water, etc. all of these practices were not applied before the FFS. Detail of changes are elaborated below:

1) Separate small and big chickens: Big chicken normally bit small chickens when feed is provided in the same place. Small chicken cannot eat or having enough feed if they eat together with the big chicken. Making cages to separate the big and small chickens are prepared by the indigenous farmers after they received the training from the project. Currently, they see good growth of the chickens. Mixed feed and clean water are provided regularly – this enables the chickens to grow faster.

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Chicken cage

2) Building biosafety fence and mobile cage: traditionally, they allowed chickens to go anywhere for their food. Now, the farmers make chicken pen or biosafety fence to confine their chicken, the purpose is to prevent chickens from infectious diseases. Photo below shows the chicken house and fence being constructed.

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Chicken house – to be completed

_DSC2008Wild bamboo is available in the community, so the farmers don’t need to spend for the bamboo to make chicken cage, fence, etc. However, the indigenous community needs to make sure that this resource is sustainable for long term use.  In addition, the farmers also build mobile cage to transport their chickens from village center to Chamkar. In Taveng Leu commune, the farmers live in two different places, at the village center during the dry season and in Chamkar during the rainy season. They also move all livestock / poultry together with them from place to place. From village to Chamkar, they need to cross Sesan River, they were difficult to manage a good transport of their chickens while crossing the river. PDA trained them to prepare mobile cage to keep their chickens inside when crossing the river to Chamkar.

3) Mixed feed / feeding: It is different from what they had done before. Now, they prepare feed container from bamboo, and provide mixed and nutritious feed for their chickens. Some farmers used feed from the factory to feed the chicks, the idea is to faster the growth of the chicks when they were young. Actually, it is important for the farmers to be able to make mixed feed by themselves so that they don’t need pay money for buying feed from markets. There are some local feed available in their community such as termite, young leaves of the cassava, etc._DSC1862

4) Building capacity of the village animal health workers: 2 out of 12 FFS members are village animal health workers. It was good for them to refresh what they have learned before through attending the pilot FFS. Additionally, the PDA director will invite them to join another one-month training to be organized by PDA.

Challenges in implementing the FFS

  • We need to further improve the implementation of the FFS approach – this mainly focus on the sharing of knowledge and experience among farmers as well as the field practices that enable the farmers to learn effectively. Class lecturing need to reduced.
  • Definitely, FFS does not need much external incentive support such as materials/equipment needed for the preparation of chicken pens, chicken cage, mobile cage, etc. however, if the project also have this support, all of these materials need to be procured and delivered quickly to the farmers. This enables the farmers to apply the techniques that they have learned very well, and they may be able to see results.
  • Concept of climate change to be integrated into the training curriculum. Some brief about the climate change concept provided by the project extension officer, but not much detail. There should a session on climate change integrated into the training sessions.
  • FFS group leaders should be selected. The group need to be well-organized and structured for the future development.

Lessons learned

  • Organization of the exchange visit to learn from experienced farmers is a good method to motivate farmers to apply new techniques
  • Selection of young farmers – they have high motivation and commitment compared to the old farmers. The young indigenous farmers also can speak Khmer better than the old farmers.
  • Demonstration and regular follow up visit is the key to support farmers to apply new ideas. Trainer and extension officer provided good demonstration to farmers in applying new techniques.
  • Making friend and close relationship with farmers with the key to gain confidence and participation from the farmers. In the indigenous community, women’s participation is limited if trust and confidence is not building up.
  • Training curriculum need to be well-prepared from the beginning of the FFS, training materials should be ready before the training organized. Visual tools like picture, video clip are useful tool for the training while majority of the participants are illiterate.
  • The project extension officer together with FFS trainer should use the FFS record book. Using the record book would enable them to record what happening in each training sessions, and other information related to the follow up visit and advice, incentive support, problems encountered and proposed solution as well as success of FFS compared to its objectives and expected results.

Next actions

  • Provide technical follow up support to the FFS members to help them improving the chicken rearing and provide solution if any problem happened.
  • For the next season, the farmers are interested in FFS on rice, vegetables. Pig and fish raising were also raised by the farmers, but these practices are only suitable for some specific location in the commune.
  • As the project has another component on alternative livelihood, the strengthening and building up on the existing FFS would help.
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