Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO-UN) in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment (MOE) currently implementing a five-year GEF-funded project, called Life and Nature. The project aims to improve livelihood and food security of the people living in micro watersheds across four provinces (Ratanakiri, Preah Vihear, Kampong Thom, and Siem Reap). The project has 5 important components: 1) climate change adaptation mainstreamed into policies / development plans at national and sub-national level, 2) micro watershed management, 3) climate smart agriculture, 4) gender and alternative livelihood, and 5) monitoring and evaluation.

Under the agriculture component, the Life and Nature project has piloted farmer field schools (FFS) in the four target provinces. Family chicken rearing is the need of the community people, and they requested to have capacity building on this technique. From February – March 2016, the project in cooperation with the Ratanakiri provincial department of agriculture had implemented the pilot FFS on chicken rearing for 12 farmers from 2 villages (Pangket and Rieng Vinh).  It is to note that family chicken rearing was selected by the community members for the pilot FFS in Ratanakiri, while vegetable cultivation chose for other 3 FFS in Siem Reap, Kampong Thom, and Preah Vihear.

Indigenous farmer prepared chicken cage and chicken pen after trained by the PDA staff
Indigenous farmer prepared chicken cage and chicken pen after trained by the PDA staff, Taveng Leu commune, Ratanakiri province

The pilot FFS conducted by the project aimed to strengthen knowledge and capacity of the indigenous people to increase productivity of chicken rearing. The facilitator and trainers were from the project’s extension officer and PDA officials (PDA staff was the trainer and one staff from district agriculture office was the trainer assistant.  8 training sessions were organized on the regular basis, covered different topics: chicken breed selection, building chicken pen and mobile cage, chick hatching, feeding, caring for chicks and chickens, disease prevention and treatment, etc. In the beginning, on exposure visit was organized for the twelve FFS members to visit and learn from experienced farmers in Lumphat district.

Through the implementation of this pilot FFS, the farmers have learned how to build mobile cage for transporting their chickens from village center to Chamkar. Normally, the indigenous people stay several months in the village center and then move to their farming land/Chamkar for the whole rainy season. Chickens are also brought together with them when they move from one place to another place. Based on the agricultural rapid assessment conducted by the project extension officer, chicken rearing is commonly practiced by indigenous farmers in the commune, but high mortality rate due to disease infection and application of inappropriate rearing practices were found as the key problems. Additionally, some chicken lost while crossing the Sesan River from village center to Chamkar.

Distribution of nylon net for farmer field school members to prepare chicken pen, Taveng Leu commune, Ratanakiri province

From 31 March to 4 April 2016, Mr. Yim Soksophors, national agronomist of the FAO’s Life and Nature project conducted a field mission to Ratankiri province together with Dr. Stacy Crevello, project team leaders /Chief Technical Advisor and Mr. Iean Russel, FAO international consultant. The objectives were 1) to get Letter of Agreement between the project and PDA signed, 2) to visit farming areas of the indigenous farmers, especially those who attended the pilot FFS, 3) to visit upstream of the Taveng Leu watershed, and 4) to attend the final session of the pilot FFS.

Forest clearing for cashew nut planting, Taveng Leu commune, Ratanakiri province

Findings from the visit would be very useful for the project to design specific interventions to respond priority need and problems encountered by the community people in the target areas. This pilot FFS is just the first start, more farmer field schools on different crops (rice, cashew, vegetable…) will be organized based on the need of the community people in cooperation with the Provincial Department of Agriculture (PDA). Agreement between Life and Nature project and PDA-Ratanakiri is expected to be ready from the beginning of April 2016.