Cambodia was badly affected by soaring food prices during the 2008-09 food price crisis – the price of rice and fertilizer doubled, while the price of meat and fish increased by up to 60% within a year. The higher prices accentuated the vulnerability of these households, including the urban poor, and the increased costs of seeds and fertilizers threatened food production as farmers were forced to reduce the use of fertilizer. Soaring gasoline price increased the cost of transport, processing, and water pumping for irrigation. Today, agriculture is the dominant sector in the Cambodian economy, contributing 32% of GDP and employing 60% of the workforce while 80% of the population depends on the sector for their livelihood. Around two thirds of the country’s rural households face food shortages or are food-deprived, particularly during the dry reason, leading to migration to urban areas and across the border to Thailand and Vietnam.
The Emergency Food Assistance Project (EFAP) supported the Royal Government of Cambodia’s Strategy for Agriculture and Water, which aimed to improve food security and spur economic growth by enhancing agricultural productivity and diversification and by improving water resource development and management. The project reduced food-insecure households’ vulnerability through
improved irrigation infrastructure and roads, increased the availability to and awareness of nutritious food and hygiene, increased access to improved agricultural inputs and technologies among food-insecure people, and improved capacity to mainstream food security. These results were achieved through activities such as the production and promotion of quality seeds, the introduction of livestock and aquaculture to diversify the production and consumption base, a food-forwork program that involved rehabilitation of small tertiary irrigation canals and village roads, and the development of disaster preparedness such as crop contingency planning and establishment of the Cambodia Food Reserve System (CFRS).
The project reached or exceed all of its main performance targets and the development impact was rated highly satisfactory by ADB upon completion. The GAFSP-funded Additional Financing of the government’s EFAP benefitted over 243,000 poor people in rural areas, of which about one-third were women. Before the project began, about two-thirds of the target households reported to be either severely or moderately food insecure. This reduced to about one-third by the end of the project. Average monthly household income almost doubled from US$110 to US$203. The project has achieved impressive results including
the following. A cash-for-work scheme t provided 1.2 million labor-days of employment opportunities for people in 29,563 households (of which 9,401 were female-headed) to rehabilitate 291 kilometers of rural roads and 29 kilometers of tertiary irrigation canals. Participating workers earned about US$130 on average, and used their earnings to buy rice (86 percent of workers), repay debt (84 percent), buy other food items such as fish and vegetables (83 percent), pay for school fees (69 percent), and buy farm inputs such as rice seeds and fertilizer (58 percent). Nutrition and hygiene training and the provision of basic agriculture/hygiene starter kits was implemented by a consortium of eight local CSOs led by Plan International Cambodia. Members from more than 46,000 poor households attended trainings on cooking (63,185 participants), sanitation awareness (55,244 participants), and nutrition awareness (42,934 participants), and received inputs such as cash to build latrines (22,132 households), a piglet package (one piglet per family, 16,456 households), a poultry package (one rooster and five hens per family, 5,670 households), vegetable seeds (4,221 households), and aquaculture inputs (fishing net or 500 fingerlings,
2,437 households). The project produced and sold high-quality rice and vegetable seeds at discounted prices to promote their use. The seeds were produced at the Government’s research stations with the engagement of farmer groups. The project produced 1,328 tons of rice seeds and 30 tons of vegetable seeds. Rice seeds (2,833 tons), vegetable seeds (13
tons), and DAP and urea fertilizers (6,982 tons) were sold at discounted prices to 45,149 households, including 13,842 female-headed households, over four seasons. The EFAP Additional Financing project built on the success of the original EFAP, which was an emergency response in the post-2008 food price crisis. It effectively implemented medium- to long-term measures
to benefit food-insecure rural families by rehabilitating rural infrastructure, promoting the use of high-quality seeds, changing behaviors toward nutrition and hygiene, and strengthening the government’s planning capacity.
Some lessons from the project include the following. First, the project noted the importance of placing innovative ideas in the proper context. The project modified its planned activities to cater to the needs of the evolving situation without compromising its basic principle during project implementation. For example, the cash-for-work scheme was launched to provide job opportunities not only to poor villagers, but also to factory workers as factories were closing down due to the global economic downturn in 2009. Further, the Cambodia Food Reserve System was established and is now operational, whereas the originally plan was to
only conduct a technical study for its feasibility. Second, engaging the local community in the implementation, supervision, and monitoring of the cashfor-work and food-for-work schemes with technical support from the line ministries yielded rich dividends
by ensuring sustainability and bringing ownership of the infrastructure that was maintained.
Official Project Documents:
- GAFSP Proposal
- Cover Letters with Endorsements
- Sector Strategies: Food Security and Nutrition, Nutrition, Strategic Development Plan Update, Sub-National Democratic Development, Rice Production and Export, and (regional) Asean Integrated Food Security Framework
- Technical Peer Review: Independent Review and Meeting Summary
- Background documents (SAW Program Design, Annexes for Program Design Document, Statement of Partnership Principles)