FAO in Cambodia

Validation workshop to finalize a GCF funding project to improve climate resilience of Cambodian smallholder famers in the Northern Tonle Sap Basin


The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), in partnership with the Ministry of Environment (MoE) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries (MAFF), is developing a Green Climate Fund (GCF) project, “Public-Social-Private Partnerships for Ecologically-Sound Agriculture and Resilient Livelihoods in Northern Tonle Sap Basin (PEARL)”, which seeks to enhance climate change resilience of smallholder farmers, local communities and other value chain actors of the Northern Tonle Sap Basin so that they can cope with the devastating impacts of climate change.

The Northern Tonle Sap Basin (NTSB) is recognized as one of Cambodia's most important agricultural regions, offering a fifth of the country's cereal and grain production. However, the NTSB has some of the highest poverty rates in the country and is experiencing severe environmental degradation. The anticipated impacts of climate change will compound these socioecological vulnerabilities. Changing rainfall patterns and extreme weather events have already been observed and are expected to significantly affect traditional rice production, which relies on rainfed systems, with limited irrigation potential due to the region's generally hilly topography.

At the same time, there are growing market opportunities in higher-value and niche product segments, including mango, cashew, organic rice, and leafy vegetables. However, these segments are currently inaccessible to most smallholder farmers and local value-chain actors due to limitations, including a lack of finance, technologies, and market knowledge. These segments must also adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Against this backdrop, Cambodia's National Designated Authority (NDA) for the GCF, represented by MoE, has appointed FAO as the Accredited Entity (AE) to develop the PEARL project. The project aims to enhance climate change resilience of smallholder farmers, their capacities to access growing market value chains while establishing  partnerships that aim to leverage increased private and public investments.

The project targets four important commodities, including cashew, mango, quality rice, and quality vegetables in Kampong Thom, Preah Vihear, Siem Reap, and Oddar Meanchey and will benefit approximately 450 000 farmers and other local value chain actors or close to three percent of Cambodia's total population. The project will also help to restore and protect 7 600 hectares of critical catchment forests and other sensitive ecological zones for improved agroecological functions.

The formulation of the PEARL project began in 2018. To support the proposal development, FAO has completed an initial feasibility study on agriculture certification programmes in 2018 and a technical assessment on value-driven agricultural resilience to climate change in 2020. Several other feasibility studies, including an Integrated Finance and Economic Analysis (IFEA) and Social Environmental Management Framework (ESFM), are underway.

Before finalizing the project proposal scheduled for submission to the GCF in March 2022, the FAO, MoE, MAFF, Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology (MoWRAM), and Agricultural and Rural Development Bank (ARDB) jointly organized a validation workshop on 16 December 2021. The workshop was attended by around 60 participants from all concerned stakeholders at national and sub-national levels to gather their final inputs for the finalization of the proposal, while updating them regarding the process of the proposal development to date. 

At the validation workshop, Mr Antonio Schiavone, FAO Representative a.i in Cambodia, highlighted that, “to achieve the goal, the project is designed to ensure that smallholder farmers and other value chain actors in the target areas have better access to finance, technologies, and knowledge to adopt climate-resilient and higher-value practices to access the premium markets and for export. The advanced knowledge and market access will enable them to address climate risks and underlying socioeconomic vulnerabilities, and permanently shift towards climate-resilient and diversified agricultural livelihood.”

Mr Kuy Hout, Deputy Director General of the General Directorate of Agriculture/MAFF, stated that the MAFF has been focusing its core actions on increasing productivity, promoting agricultural intensification, integrating agricultural techniques to cope with challenges posed by the climate change, including promoting the use of drought/flooding resistant varieties, water saving technologies, intercropping, preparing cropping calenda, as well as other interventions to restore crop damage, to cite a few.

He continued adding that, “there is still much to be done, especially enhancing resilient capacity, applying new technologies that promote responsive and recovery capacity among famers, as well as promoting further involvement of all concerned stakeholders to effectively address these pressing issues of the climate change.” 

H.E. Sao Sopheap, Secretary of State and GEF Political Focal Point of the MoE, stated that, “without our support, these smallholder farmers and other local value-chain actors would experience downward trends in agricultural productivity and livelihood, significantly impacting the country's food security and progress towards sustainable development.”