The EU-funded TAP-AIS project works to strengthen capacities in agricultural innovation systems (AIS) to contribute to the climate-relevant, productive and sustainable transformation of agrifood systems. TAP-AIS works in nine countries, including Cambodia, and focuses on strengthening the functional capacities (or “soft” skills) of key actors enabling their effective use of technical skills to facilitate innovation.
In Cambodia, the TAP-AIS project has been implemented by FAO in close partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF). The project assessed the national agricultural innovation system (AIS) in Cambodia and identified key national institutions as entry points for capacity strengthening. A recent publication entitled “Agricultural innovation pathways in Cambodia” highlights the key results from capacity development interventions and recommended follow-up actions from the project.
The Cambodia Conservation Agriculture and Sustainable Intensification Consortium (CASIC) was identified as one of the key organizations for capacity strengthening. CASIC is a national coordination platform that champions conservation agriculture (CA) and sustainable intensification (SI) towards agroecological transition in Cambodia and Southeast Asia. Despite the demonstrated benefits of CA, its adoption has remained limited due to insufficient multistakeholder collaboration and a lack of targeted policies to support farmers in adopting CA. The TAP-AIS project addressed this gap through a year-long multistakeholder policy dialogue process.
“The policy dialogue is a very good platform offering an opportunity for all relevant stakeholders to identify key challenges in implementing conservation agriculture. They were able to collectively explore and document possible solutions to those challenges and present them to policy makers. Previously there was no such platform of exchange among farmers, service providers and other actors to enable cooperation among different stakeholders to share common goals and understanding.”
Sar Veng, Coordinator of Conservation Agriculture Service Center (CASC) in Battambang province
Trainer from the Conservation Agriculture Service Centre (CASC), and key facilitator of the subnational policy dialogues, gives a field presentation on cover crops ©CASC
Farmer from Ratanak Mundul district, Battambang province, listens to presentation on cover crops ©CASC
The dialogue events were organized at the subnational (Battambang province) and national (Phnom Penh) levels and brought together diverse stakeholders from farmers, agribusinesses, NGOs, and local governments to national level policy makers to identify challenges and explore solutions for expanding CA adoption. The success of the policy dialogue series was evident when a policy maker from MAFF announced the possible inclusion of a target to expand the area under CA in Cambodia in the updated Agricultural Development Policy for 2023-2030.
The Cambodia Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), a leading agricultural research institute in Cambodia, was also supported by the TAP-AIS project. CARDI faced challenges in collaboration, relevance, and strategic planning. The TAP-AIS project supported the development of CARDI's five-year Strategic Plan for Agricultural Research and Technology Development (SDP) for 2023-2027 using a new participatory approach. Through stakeholder consultations, CARDI engaged government ministries, development partners, private sector representatives, and farmers' organizations to identify research priorities and potential collaborations. The SDP development process not only strengthened CARDI's collaboration with stakeholders but also increased its visibility and potential for partnerships and resource mobilization. Thus, CARDI has taken steps towards becoming a more dynamic and modern research institute.
“This [SDP development process] was a good start for CARDI, especially myself, and the team, to understand the key principles of strategic planning, policy review and stakeholder consultations.”
Pol Chanthy, Deputy Director, CARDI
The Department of Extension for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DEAFF) was the third organization identified for capacity strengthening. DEAFF is responsible for technical extension services, however it has faced challenges in fostering knowledge sharing and co-learning among community extension workers (CEWs) who are on the front lines of providing services to farmers across rural Cambodia. The TAP-AIS project supported DEAFF in conducting capacity needs assessments (CNAs) with CEWs to identify their capacity gaps. This led to targeted knowledge sharing activities and proposed capacity-building interventions.
“I have gained knowledge and capacity to use the methods and tools of the capacity needs assessment with the extension workers, and I am confident that my team and I could scale up the use of capacity need assessments in other provinces in the future.”
Heng Choulong, Head of ICT Office, DEAFF
Additionally, the project supported the establishment of a national extension and advisory services (EAS) forum, linked to the Global Forum for Rural Advisory Services (GFRAS) and its regional and subregional networks, to enhance collaboration among extension providers. The EAS forum has already strengthened relationships among national-level extension providers from the public, private, and civil society sectors.
Participants at the launch event for the national EAS forum discuss its governance structure and how it can add value by increasing collaboration among EAS providers ©DEAFF/Sopheak Chun
Throughout the TAP-AIS project, multistakeholder collaboration was emphasized, resulting in increased partnerships and knowledge sharing among relevant stakeholders. The capacity to collaborate is one of the key functional capacities that enhances stakeholders’ capacity to adapt and respond to realize the potential of innovation. It is evident that the TAP-AIS project has strengthened collaborations and other functional capacities essential to innovating in agricultural research, extension and conservation agriculture. However, further support is needed to scale up solutions.
Continued support for CASIC, CARDI, and DEAFF, especially in implementing the policy dialogue outcomes, CARDI's Strategic Development Plan (SDP), and the DEAFF-led national extension and advisory services (EAS) forum, will ensure sustained progress towards strengthening Cambodia’s agricultural innovation system. Continuing to engage the private sector, farmers, and agriculture cooperatives in future SDP development and the EAS forum has the potential to unlock new opportunities for market-oriented and demand-driven agricultural research and extension services. By building upon the accomplishments of the TAP-AIS project, Cambodia's agricultural innovation system can evolve to meet the challenges and opportunities of the future.