FAO in Cambodia

FAO and MAFF join forces to promote economically and environmentally efficient rice production through direct-seeded rice


The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the General Directorate of Agriculture (GDA) of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) announced a new project that seeks to promote economically and environmentally efficient rice production in Cambodia. 

The Building Capacity on Promoting Economically and Environmentally Efficient Rice Production through direct-seeded rice (DSR) is a new regional project of FAO, covering Cambodia, Myanmar and the Philippines. In Cambodia the project aims at increasing productivity and household incomes by helping small-scale farmers to adopt a sustainable and environmentally method through the DSR.

Rice is a staple food for Cambodian people. It underpins Cambodia’s economic growth, food security and poverty reduction. It is estimated that the production, processing and marketing of rice employ at least three million people, according to International Labour Organization’s report.

Regionally, DSR has emerged as an efficient and economically viable alternative to puddled transplanted rice (PTR), which is a predominant method of rice establishment in many countries in Asia, including Cambodia. The puddled flooded rice system has been suggested as an important greenhouse gas (GHG) responsible for global warming, contributing to approximately 10 – 20 percent of total global annual methane emissions.

Recently, DSR has been also widely practiced in many countries in Asia and beyond. DSR is gaining popularity because of its low-input demand. It saves scarce and expensive resources such as labor and water, and reduces GHG emissions. Comparative yields in DSR can be obtained by adopting various cultural practices including selection of suitable varieties, proper sowing time, optimum seed rate, and proper weed, nutrient and water management. Moreover, DSR also offers an option to resolve edaphic conflicts (between rice and the subsequent non-rice crop) and to promote the adoption of crop rotation practices, which is in line with the directive of food system transformation for food diversification and improved food and nutrition security in Asia.

However, adopting DSR to attain similar PTR productivity levels, requires important strides, ranging from enabling policies and improved information delivery mechanisms from public and private sectors to the farmers to the adoption of advanced DSR technologies.

In Cambodia, 90 percent of the rice is established using broadcast DSR but productivity and profitability has remained low mostly because of use of poor-quality farmer saved seed, high seeding rates, poor weed, water, and nutrient management, higher lodging associated with high seed rate, and low adoption of mechanization for crop establishment.

Therefore, as emphasized by Mr Antonio Schiavone, FAO Representative a.i. in Cambodia, “this project will respond to these constraints by focusing on capacity strengthening and fostering tailored mechanization service providers to improve mechanization service delivery and also promoting adoption of advanced DSR technology, which are vitally important for the efficient and sustainable implementation of DSR in the Country.”

The project includes key activities to achieve an analysis on the rice establishment system that reveals the gaps, constraints and opportunities, which is the steppingstone for the success of the country transition from transplanted rice (TPR) system to DSR system, he added.  

In Cambodia, GDA-MAFF will be the national responsible body for project implementation from late 2021 to January 2023.

H.E. Dr Ngin Chhay, Director General of the GDA-MAFF, commented that, “this project is well aligned with the priorities of the Royal Government of Cambodia, and it supports the mission of MAFF to modernize agriculture, promote productivity, ensure food security and nutrition, reduce poverty by increasing farmers’ income, enhance value-added agricultural products, as well as ensure the market for agricultural products.”

He further empathized that, “the adoption of the DSR by promoting farm mechanization will also encourage our farmers, including women and youth to stay engaged in rice farming and small-scale enterprises.”