Intercropping is the key for climate resilient soil fertility improvement in cassava production

SNV Netherlands Development Organisation has implemented an Asia Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) Project in Tboung Khmum province since the beginning of 2014 in four countries (Cambodia, Lao PDR, Nepal and Bhutan). In Cambodia, Tboung Khmum is the target province of the CSA project, the project mainly works on improving cassava production through the application of climate resilient soil fertility improvement and to improve water use efficiency in family’s vegetable production in Svay Rieng province. Improving the adaptive capacity of the cassava farmers is the main focus of the project. This would enable them to cope with climate change and variability through the application of climate smart agriculture approach. Through the climate change vulnerability and impact assessment conducted by SNV in February 2014, depletion of soil fertility is the main challenge facing the cassava farmers in the project’s areas. The depletion of soil fertility can be a result of monocropping application for many years. Therefore, the CSA project introduces “intercropping practice” to the cassava farmers. The project cooperated with several farmers to conduct trials “intercropping between cassava and legumes” in 2014. The result showed an increase in yield, soil fertility improvement, and soil-water holding capacity. This is interesting to replicate this successful practices to other cassava farmers in the project’s areas.

Training for cassava farmers in Chhouk Sandal village, Tboung Khmum

Training for cassava farmers in Chhouk Sandal village, Tboung Khmum

Cassava production is applied by more than 75% of total families in project’s target villages. But the same land is used from year to year for planting the cassava without crop rotation or intercropping practice, this resulted in depletion of soil fertility and yield. The CSA project introduces climate resilient soil fertility practices (specifically, improved soil water retention capacity) to the cassava farmers.

As a climate smart agriculture advisor, Mr. Yim Soksophors works closely with relevant government officials from Provincial Department of Agriculture of Tboung Khmum province, and local NGO (Vigilance staff) to organise series of training for cassava farmers in Tboung Khmum province. One round of the training organised in March, and this is the second round of the training sessions organised by the project. For the second round organised from 22 to 24 April 2015, 6 training sessions were organised with the participation of 117 farmers (79 women).

The training’s topic mainly focused on intercropping, detail training contents shown below:

  • Introduction to the participants about SNV and the CSA project
  • Review previous training from March 2015 (soil fertility improvement)
  • New training topic for this round is “Intercropping practices in cassava production”
  • Other soil fertility improvement practices included (such as use of natural fertiliser, compost, cover crop/green manure, etc.)
  • Pest insect control / treatment of cassava cutting stems before planting
Training for cassava farmers in Prophat village, Tboung Khmum

Training for cassava farmers in Prophat village, Tboung Khmum

SNV, PDA and Vigilance staffs co-facilitated the training. They encouraged farmers to use natural fertiliser rather than using chemical fertiliser and pesticide for soil improvement and pest control. As a result, the farmers are aware of intercropping practices, some farmers interested to apply intercropping in a plot of land to experiment this practice in this season. Other farmers have learned how to select and prepare healthy cassava cutting stems, treatment of the cassava cutting stems before planting, etc. The project expected that the farmers will apply these practices in this new planting season.

Through organising these training, the project has engaged different partners and stakeholders, such as the Provincial Department of Agriculture of Tboung Khmum province, Vigilance (local organisation) and local authorities (village chief, commune chief). Those stakeholders have improved their knowledge of CSA approach, etc. More importantly, this engagement will provide a bigger room for cooperation among those stakeholders.

Rains came during the training, so it was a challenge to invite farmers to attend the training while a majority of them were bought with the preparation of the cassava cutting stems and soil plowing for the cassava planting in this new season. For next actions, we will carry out the following activities:

  • Organise another round of training and provide individual follow-up visit and advice to ensure that the farmers will demonstrate what they have learned from the project to other farmers in their villages.
  • The project may consider providing some legume seeds for farmers to apply intercropping practices in cassava production.

Thank Vigilance organisation for organising the training. Thank Mr. You Tainghy and Mr. Chansophal PDA officials for providing technical knowledge on intercropping practices to the farmers, and finally thank farmers for active participation in the training.

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