October 16, 2013—The occasion of both World Food Day and International Rural Women’s Day should prompt every actor in the food system to consider the essential role of women farmers, their livelihoods and productivity. To this end, CEDAC organized a seminar entitled “Rural Women’s Contribution to Sustainable Agriculture Development and Food Security,” held at the Cambodia-Japan Cooperation Center in Phnom Penh. Supported by the German Development Cooperative (GIZ) and the Asian Rural Women’s Coalition (ARWC) of Pesticide Action Network-Asia Pacific (PAN AP), the event featured presentations by GIZ and CEDAC technical experts and Ms. Siyat Chey, a woman farmer and contributor to the ARWC’s travelling journal, as well as an open dialogue for Cambodian women small-hold farmers. 79 participants included students, farmers and members of the local media.
GIZ technical advisor Mr. Christian Fink delivered opening remarks, asking participants to reflect of the meanings of sustainability, the food system and the World Food/International Rural Women’s Day. He also spoke on the importance of smallholder agriculture for food security: “By supporting small-scale farmers in rural areas, not only the production of agricultural commodities is being promoted, but also productive employment is being created and income is generated for the rural poor.” CEDAC President Dr. Yang Saing Koma presented next, discussing the meaning of food security and the principles of organic agriculture. He explained how support for organic agriculture enables small-scale farmers to improve their livelihood, land production and local environment. Moreover, he also mentioned the important role that rural women and small farming households play in sustainable agriculture development and food security.
After a screening of the GIZ-supported film “My Food, My Health,” Mr. Suo Savorn from CEDAC Sahakreas presented on the organic food chain and the pesticide contamination cycle. He also advised participants on how to choose and prepare safe foods. Next, CEDAC Program Officer Chantheang Tong spoke about the global and Cambodian food security situations, and emphasized the role of rural women in addressing agriculture development. She also discussed the ARWC’s travel journal, which collected experiences and practical knowledge on the struggles rural women face with their livelihoods. Then, farmer Ms. Siyat Chey shared the story she wrote for the journal and spoke about the 40th session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS40) in Rome. Ms. Chey said she was “excited to participate in this forum on promoting sustainability and small scale farmers in Asia, and especially to observe how many NGOs/civil societies are active in promoting women.”
To conclude, CEDAC advisor Mr. Channa Samorn facilitated a Q&A session with organic women farmers, with many questions from students on how to locate organic products and the challenges presented by sustainable methods. Closing remarks were delivered by CEDAC Health and Environment Director Mr. Keam Makarady, who spoke about the overarching strategy for promoting organic products, including the new Rice Mill Cooperative (RMC) initiative and capacity building for producers.