Overview
With total production of around 8.78 million tons of paddy rice per year, rice is by far the most important crop in Cambodia’s agricultural sector. Although Cambodia produces a surplus of paddy rice for export, families’ access to sufficient and nutritious food remains a serious challenge due to high rates of poverty, frequent flooding and droughts, inadequate irrigation and, post-harvest losses due to poor storage facilities, among other factors.

Floods in 2011 compounded existing shortfalls in rice production. One post-flood survey showed that the number of households expecting food shortages of 4-8 months shot up dramatically, from 13% to 31%[1].

However, 13% of rural households in Cambodia are landless, so even under ideal conditions, they are unable to provide enough food for their families. Depending on the variety of rice they grow, those who have land to farm will get between 800-1200 riel per Kg of their harvest.

Income and food from forests and fisheries are particularly important for the poor in weathering the leaner months, but land grabs and environmental degradation have restricted their access to these resources.[2] Fish remains a critical source of protein for Cambodians, but overfishing has resulted in a decline in catches in recent years and the sustainability of fish stocks is increasingly under threat. Many people in rural areas depend on casual low-wage labour or informal enterprises—like illegal logging—to generate income to cover at least part of their food needs, and their food security can often depend mainly on this income.[3]

Farmers seeking to sell their crops face poorly developed road and market infrastructure, limited post-harvest storage capacity, and high transaction costs. Net returns from rice production are very low, and the marketing strategies of households earn little profit.

Purchasing power to buy food is generally very limited in rural areas due to persistently high poverty levels. Rice shortages—insufficient amounts of this staple for two months or more—are frequent and contribute to the indebtedness of rural households, which in turn leads to chronic food insecurity. Many are endlessly trapped in this cycle of poverty.

Padek and Food Security

Padek is supporting Cambodia’s rural poor to increase their food security in a number of ways. Since rice is the mainstay of the Cambodian agricultural sector, training smallholder farmers on techniques that enable them to bring in greater harvests from the same piece of land can have dramatic effect. These techniques include the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) method, promoting organic farming and tree planting. Of these techniques, SRI remains a key part of Padek’s work with local farmers.

Planting healthy, young seedlings at the right depth, ensuring they have the right amount of water, and using crop varieties that give farmers two harvests in one year, can increase harvests by as much as ________%. Using these techniques also reduces the use of harmful chemical fertilizers which helps to improve soil quality, produce healthier crops, and protect local rice biodiversity. After training farmers in these and other techniques, Padek maintains a close relationship with them, advising them on the challenges they face and supporting them to diversify the crops they raise.

Padek’s livestock training and support is also extremely popular among some of Cambodia’s poorest people. Padek trains families in how to provide shelter and appropriate feed for livestock and then supports them with assets like chickens, pigs, and cows.

While these animals are often already being raised, they are often poorly cared for, and a staggering number of them die prematurely. Through training and further one-on-one support through livestock experts, the number of animal deaths has dropped from 50% to 10% in some of Padek’s targeted areas.

Padek is helping men and women farmers to increase the quality and quantity of their food supply. The result is not only a more nutritious diet that makes families healthier, but also increased

[1]  ‘Drowning in Debt, CARE Cambodia, January 2012

[2]Op. cit.

[3]  Council for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) website
http://www.foodsecurity.gov.kh/food-security-nutrition-data June 2012

them to diversify the crops they raise.

Padek’s livestock training and support is also extremely popular among some of Cambodia’s poorest people. Padek trains families in how to provide shelter and appropriate feed for livestock and then supports them with assets like chickens, pigs, and cows.

While these animals are often already being raised, they are often poorly cared for, and a staggering number of them die prematurely. Through training and further one-on-one support through livestock experts, the number of animal deaths has dropped from 50% to 10% in some of Padek’s targeted areas.

Padek is helping men and women farmers to increase the quality and quantity of their food supply. The result is not only a more nutritious diet that makes families healthier, but also increased income that can be used for things like schooling and medicine.