The First National Farmer Conference on Saving for Self-Reliance

On May 08th 2013, CEDAC and Farmer and Nature Net (FNN) organized the first National Farmer Conference on Saving for Self-Reliance at the Cambodian Japan Cooperation Center (CJCC) in Phnom Penh. The main objective of the conference was to address the structure and strengthen cooperation between the saving associations in the country. Additionally, participants shared experiences on the policy and management of successful saving associations. 308 farmer leaders from 15 provinces attended the conference, as well as representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) and the media.

To open the conference, CEDAC President Dr. Yang Saing Koma, thanked the participants, especially the farmer leaders who covered their own expenses during the conference, including food, transportation and accommodation. Dr. Koma then gave an overview of CEDAC’s history and its vision: a Cambodia society where small farming households enjoy good living conditions and strong mutual cooperation, with the right and power to determine their own destinies, as well as play an important role in supplying healthy food for the whole society. He stressed that one of CEDAC’s main focuses and successes has been promoting mutual cooperation by forming groups, associations and cooperatives. As a result, the total number of CEDAC-supported saving groups has risen to 3,000 associations with 70,074 members in 1,960 villages, 320 communes, 76 districts of 17 provinces. The total saving capital of these groups is over 13 million USD.

During the conference, it was announced that two more district/communities would receive grants to construct rice mill machines in 2013—Prey Kabas and Bati district in Takeo province. Moreover, six winning villages/communities (Char village [Sithor Kandal], Khceay Kharnglech village [Dang Tung], Banlar Sa aet [Chantrea], Teuk Thlar [Bati], Kanleng Chrov [Kamchay Mea], and Stung village [Kampong Tralarch districts]) were recognized as the most successful due to their active involvement in sustainable community development.

Dr. Koma also presented an overview of CEDAC’s the ten-year strategic plan (entitled S22), which centers on the promotion and implementation of the Sre Khloem program and the investment in a National Rice Mill Cooperative (RMC). Both CEDAC and farmer leaders agreed to re-orient their focus to promoting 3 key ideas to help rice farmers become more prosperous: (1) Growing fragrant rice to sell to the market by using organic SRI methods, (2) Selling milled rice instead of paddy, and (3) Allocating portions of income earned from selling milled rice to invest in a local RMC.

Finally, H.E. Chan Sarun, the Minister of MAFF delivered the closing ceremony speech, in which he admired the great achievement of farmers as well as the work of CEDAC and encouraged farmer to register their existing saving associations into cooperative law to gain additional benefits and security. He said “the government and local authorities are ready to support and help these farmers.”