SESSION III AGRICULTURE PRODUCTIVITY
Delivered by Mr. Eric Beugnot
Phnom Penh, December 4, 2008
Preamble: the concept behind the presentation is to present a fresh/new/different perspective for thinking about agricultural development strategy (long term) by way of background to identifying key constraints/opportunities and the need for collaboration/dialogue between the state and private sectors along with development partners (in the near to medium term).
Cambodia has achieved impressive economic growth and made slight gains in reducing poverty over the past several years. The dual effects of recent food price inflation and the current global financial crisis may, however, have adverse impacts on economic growth, food security and poverty reduction. These economic shocks underscore the need for short term food assistance through food for work arrangements and other modalities, including social safety nets, to address the more urgent needs associated with food security. There is, however, a general consensus that the only viable long-term solution for reducing poverty and hunger is increasing food supply through agricultural productivity. Although rising food prices may act as an incentive for increasing food production in the short term, there is a need for concerted collaboration and cooperation between the government, development partners, and the private sector to promote economic development, reduce poverty, and strengthen food security over the long term by strengthening agricultural productivity and diversification.
Cambodia faces several important challenges in achieving increased productivity and diversification. These challenges include institutional weaknesses and poor coordination, insecure land tenure, weak agriculture research and extension, poor infrastructure and irrigation facilities, a lack of affordable credit and public investments in agriculture, and poorly performing markets. Increasing productivity in the central plains and river basin areas means increasing rice yields, while diversification refers to other activities, including livestock and fish, fruits and vegetables. In the peripheral areas outside the main rice growing areas, productivity and diversification involves using in a more efficient way the land making available for cultivation. As a result, the comparative advantages of the public and private sectors will vary. In the central plains and river basin areas, the private sector should play the lead role in terms of providing business capital and linking producers to consumers, while the public sector should play a supporting role in terms of services (land titles, extension), investments in infrastructure (e.g., irrigation, roads), and establishing a legal and regulatory market frameworks that strengthen the business enabling environment (BEE). In the peripheral frontier areas, the public sector should assume a lead role in planning (e.g., resource allocation) and establishing a legal framework for land use management to ensure that private sector investments are ecologically sustainable and socially equitable.
An important component of the RGC’s focus on developing the agriculture sector as an important engine of growth and poverty reduction is the Strategy for Agriculture and Water 2006–2010 (SAW) framework, which aims to assist farmers and rural communities to increase food security and income generation and reduce poverty and vulnerability; increase the surplus of agriculture products for exports by appropriate commercialized agriculture; and manage land and water resources. The SAW represents a program-based approach to provide a platform for coordinated support for strengthening agricultural production and diversification. SAW is comprised of five components with an overall indicative budget of USD350 million. The components are (1) institutional capacity building and reform; (2) food security; (3) agri-business development (value chain approaches); (4) water, irrigation and land management; and (5) research, education, and extension.
To promote effective and efficient response that would lead to a more productive agriculture sector, the implementation of these 5 national programmes will require (i) strong leadership, coordination and management of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology to facilitate coordination and alignment of all supports from both Government and donors and (ii) to engage a dialogue with line Ministries on land planning and management and (iii) to increase the public investment.