Second Forum of ACPN

On Friday, the 16th of June, the second annual stakeholder consultation workshop on Agricultural Cooperative Promotion took place.

The Agricultural Cooperative (AC) is a group of companies which have come together as joint investors to transform Cambodia’s agricultural economy; raising the Cambodian small scale farmers’ economic, social and cultural statuses, through innovative strategies to expand the current market while also creating new market opportunities, reducing the agricultural production costs while ensuring the quality of the products, increasing the household incomes, and ultimately leading towards community development and national economic growth. In order to accomplish this, the forum brings together the key stakeholders who are working and supporting the AC to meet and share about their working approaches, strategies and key lessons learnt while also addressing the issues and potential solutions.

Supported by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), World Vision’s Cambodia Sustainable Business Development (CSBD) project aims to empower farmers to improve their livelihoods by strengthening their skills to improve productivity and effectively operate in agricultural markets. By engaging Agricultural Cooperatives called ACs, the CSBD project promotes a pro-poor market systems approach to agriculture to help farmers increase their income and productivity. 

Malen You, World Vision’s senior project manager, recognizes the value of the event as, “we are able to bring representatives from many who work closely with the AC as well as in the private sector together to share their experiences and their best practices and identify the best approach to support the AC, especially addressing the issues that the Cambodian AC faces. The workshop setting also creates a culture of sharing and learning from one another to improve AC businesses and their ultimately direct their income towards their children’s well-being.”

World Vision is looking forward to all that the upcoming years will accomplish, and see how the NGOs

Attendees began filtering into the room to register and get seated for the opening ceremony at 8am. Representatives from the main organizers of the forum, World Vision, GDA (General Directorate of Agriculture), and DGRV (German Co- Operative and Raiffeisen Confederation), all shared opening remarks talking about the need for this focus on improving Cambodia’s agricultural industry, as it is still the leading industry in Cambodia, affecting the population’s livelihood. This is especially vital in relation to the economic trend in the country; all key stakeholders who are working with the AC must build the capacity of the AC steering committee so they are able to produce standard products for the ASEAN market.  There were countless nods of agreement as the speakers shared both the struggles that the AC faces and all the progress that has been made in just a year. 

After a quick coffee break and group photo, the forum settled in again. Mr. Chea Saintdona, the director of DACP gave a short report on all the progress that has resulted from all NGOs working with the agricultural cooperative and the previous ACPN forum. Next, attendees were able to hear about the concepts and procedure of establishment of ACBN and the Union of AC presented by Mrs. Vong Phalla. Mr. Sato Chikara, the Chief Adviser of the BPAC (Business Oriented Agricultural Cooperative) project gave a short presentation on all of the progress BPAC has been able to make, followed by presentations on the progress of World Vision, The Sewo Project, Heifer, BFD (Buddhism for Development), CAC (Cambodia Accounting Club), and CIRD (Cambodia Institute for Research and Rural Development). It was extremely encouraging to see all of the progress that each of these organizations have accomplished individually, and in turn, the large scale change that has been orchestrated by the whole cooperative.  

Though the forum only spanned a day, a great deal of information was conveyed

Lunch was followed by a session organized for a general ‘Q&A’, before focusing on roundtable discussions with the prompts; “What are the main challenges of AC promoters to promoter to face in your work/project?” and “What kind of support do ACPN members need from DACP/GDA to promote ACs?” The participants were invested and engaged in the discussion, and had a plethora of suggestions and thoughts to add to the conversation, coming together to incite change. Malen You said that this has helped World Vision and all the NGOs and other partners in working with the AC and also supports the project of implementation in the next year. 

The forum concluded at 5pm with closing remarks from Mr. Hardy Schneider and a representative from GDA. Though the forum only spanned a day, a great deal of information was conveyed, and the discussion was extremely encouraging; after considering how much progress was made in just a year, World Vision is looking forward to all that the upcoming years will accomplish, and see how the NGOs, AC, and representatives from the private sector will be able to work together to fight poverty. 

Since 2014, CSBD project has facilitated 38 ACs to have contract farming arrangements and link their products with 10 companies. This creates a win-win situation for both farmers and the companies. The companies get a supply of products, while farmers are guaranteed a consistent buyer. Companies also often provide much needed technical advice on improving crop yield and quality, against standards required in the market.

This story is written by Anna Merryman, a voluntter who just completed her internship with World Vision.