Cambodia urges diversification of alternative livelihoods

By Anthony McGonigle17 March 2022 Cambodia

A delegation from Cambodia, led by Veng Sakhon, Minister of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), virtually joined with ministers and senior officials from 46 member nations of UN FAO across Asia and the Pacific to address and respond to the damage done to economies and livelihoods in the food and agriculture sectors in the wake of the global pandemic, with the outcome to serve as a guide for the FAO’s work in the region.

A FAO and UN Agency report last year revealed that around 40 percent of the region’s population could not afford a nutritious and healthy diet. Since then, the price of food has risen. FAO’s Food Price Index is now recording its highest food prices, globally, in more than a decade.

Reversing many years of progress, hunger in Asia and the Pacific is on the rise again, and inequalities are increasing, particularly between rural and urban populations, with women and youth being left behind.

Dr Prum Somany, Director of the International Cooperation of the MAFF, was appointed to lead the Cambodian government delegation. He said, “We need to promote diversification of alternative livelihoods, with a focus on resilient socio-economic growth and green recovery.”

As the head of the delegation, Veng Sakhon, Minister of MAFF, presented Cambodia’s statement to the conference, which clearly emphasised priorities and needs to support the development of agriculture and sustainable agri-food system, recognised as the backbone of Cambodia’s economic growth. In 2021, agriculture contributed about 24.4 percent to the national GDP. The sector is also key to vulnerability and poverty reduction for the majority of the rural population.

Food for Thought: Director of the International Cooperation of the MAFF, Prum Somany (centre) taking part in the thirty-sixth session of the Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific (APRC36). (photo credit: Khmer Times)Food for Thought: Director of the International Cooperation of the MAFF, Prum Somany (centre) taking part in the thirty-sixth session of the Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific (APRC36). (photo credit: Khmer Times)

“With the persistent challenges facing farmers and disruptions brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, we need regional cooperation and support to promote digitalisation and innovation across agri-food systems to achieve resilient production system for economic growth, decent jobs, livelihood, and better nutrition for all,” said Veng Sakhon.

Among others, climate change was identified as one of the most important current and future challenges to enhance food security and nutrition in Asia and the Pacific which is one of the most exposed and vulnerable regions to negative impacts of global warming.

A recent assessment of the IPCC made clear that the impacts of climate change on communities and the agri-food systems have been and will be much greater than previously thought.

In the roundtable discussion on “Climate actions for resilience and sustainability” held on the last day of the conference, Tin Ponlok, Secretary of State, Cambodia’s Ministry of Environment, said, “There are a lot of potential solutions in this area, for example, improved soil management techniques, which can contribute to both climate change mitigation and adaptation.”

He pointed out another example, which is about the opportunity to use carbon finance to support innovation in sustainable agri-food systems. He added, “What is needed right now is the innovative models of cooperation to develop, promote and finance sustainable agri-food system projects for the poorest and most vulnerable, as carbon financing can be very complex.”

He suggested FAO not only focus on technical assistance but also cover more integrated approaches at a bigger scale, working with public financial management reforms to inform budgetary policies that will support sustainable agri-food systems.