Enhancing Sustainability through the Scaling-up of Locally Manufactured Technologies
This post is written by Pritesh Chalise, Knowledge Management Lead, Innovation for Sustainable Agriculture Project (ISA).
Cambodia’s agriculture sector is one of the key engines for economic growth and poverty reduction in the country. In recent decades, however, agricultural intensification has caused the destruction of its natural assets, resulting in soil degradation. Farmers increasingly face low and declining productivity and income. Therefore, there is a need for the Cambodian agriculture sector to reinvent itself by shifting from increased production through land expansion to sustainable intensification.
One of the on-ground initiatives contributing toward the transition to sustainable intensification by supporting the scale-up of agricultural technologies is the Innovation for Sustainable Agriculture (ISA) project of Swisscontact. The project works closely with the Appropriate Scale Mechanization Consortium (ASMC) and the ground activities are coordinated together. This joint initiative aims to assess the performances of appropriate-scale machinery (ASM) for rice farming and diversification with fodder species (i.e., affordability, practicability, efficiency and labor-saving) and focuses on training smallholders, service providers and students on the use of ASM, as well as supporting multistakeholder initiatives by initiating a negotiation process between farmers for the individuals or collective management and scaling up these ASM to reach out to more smallholder farmers in Cambodia.
Scaling-up locally developed technologies
One of the ASMs currently being scaled up in Cambodia is a locally manufactured Seed Broadcaster developed by Neourn Workshop. The Neourn Workshop, based out of Stoung, Kampong Thom province, started production of agricultural equipment in 1996 and continues to produce and sell various kinds of customized agricultural implements, including, but not limited to, seed broadcasters, sprayers, axial plows, mount plows, border discs, fertilizer application, small-scale rice seeder and grass slasher.
Swisscontact’s Mekong Inclusive Growth and Innovation Programme (MIGIP), the Phase 1 of the ISA project, partnered with Neourn in 2018 to commercialize fertilizer spreaders through Swisscontact’s 4S Technology Market Segmentation (4S Model) and provided support to set up a distribution network. The 4S Model is a go-to-market strategy developed by Swisscontact Cambodia specifically for private sector players to bring new agricultural technology/machinery to farmers. There are four stages in the 4S Model, which are: search, set up, service workshop and showcase. The Neourn workshop was also supported by ASMC to test the fertilizer spreader on farmers’ land in Kampong Thom and Battambang for feedback.
The ISA project’s intervention with Neourn follows the same strategy and is working alongside tractor owners and forward-thinking farmers to provide smallholder farmers an opportunity to access modern technologies through intermediaries, such as service providers, at an affordable rate. However, while selling tractors has not been an issue in Cambodia, the widespread use of implements has not been observed. Therefore, to enable farmers, technology providers, nongovernmental organizations, government officials and agriculture stakeholders access to information on technologies, the project, after discussion with Neourn, aimed to promote the Seed Broadcaster machine to improve farmers’ productivity and open access to new agricultural technologies. The Neourn workshop currently accepts interns from the Royal University of Agriculture, and it is also under the technical and capacity support of the ASMC II project.
Over the years, Noeurn has built up the capacity and the potential to promote cover crop practice through seed broadcasters’ commercialization and is contributing to the transition of Cambodia’s agriculture sector toward Conservation Agriculture through Sustainable Intensification (CA/SI). The Seed Broadcasters produced by the workshop are also technically recognized by the Department of Agriculture Engineering. Currently, the local workshop employs 25 staff and is well-connected with important market actors, such as the Department of Agriculture Engineering of the General Department of Agriculture and the Royal University of Agriculture, and is also widely recognized by large landholder farmers.
The ISA project is financed by the Happel Foundation, the Symphasis Foundation and the Leopold Bachmann Foundation, among other donors. As part of the Swisscontact Development Programme, it is cofinanced by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA).
The ASMC, led by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is part of the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Sustainable Intensification, funded by USAID. ASMC in Cambodia is integrated into the Intervention Area 3 (i.e., promote sustainable agriculture technology and techniques) of Swisscontact’s ISA project and is led by the faculty of engineering at the Royal University of Agriculture in Cambodia.