Joint Statement of Women Farmers for Food Security and Household Economy 2016 onwards

Thursday, March 17, 2016
women farmer champions raised their concern on agriculture work

The statement below was made in represent of 100 women farmer champions from five regions in 24 provinces in Cambodia. This was made during the National Women Farmer Champions in Agriculture organized on March 8-9 to raise farmers concern in agriculture and seek for collaboration from the stakeholders.

We, women farmers, wish for ourselves and our group’s families received solutions to increase agricultural yields for our families and communities, which could lead to contribute to reducing national poverty with the Royal Government of Cambodia. We have faced difficulties and gradually lost our capital due to fluctuating market prices and, drought causes shortages in water for consumption and also causes for lack of capital for farming. Under these pressures, we, as women, get double suffer due to gender gap in either our family or in society.

We concern about the living of our families and about producing food in the future. We wish to raise some of the following difficulties and suggestions below:

Cambodia is an agricultural country, rice production is the main employment and 75% of the farmers are women. In the present, women are burdening greater roles because we have continued to lose supporting labor forces from our villages, most young women and men migrate from the villages to look for work as garment factory workers and construction workers. That’s why agricultural work falls into the hand of old and middle-aged women. In addition, elderly women have to take care of their grandchildren whose parents are working outside to earn money to meet daily needs, as a supplementary  work to agriculture. This heavy burden makes us switch to using agricultural machinery and change our growing methods from transplanting to direct seeding that requires heavy use of chemicals, herbicide and pesticide, yet producing low yields and destroying natural aquatic resources such as crabs, frogs, fish etc. causing our daily expenses to increase.

Droughts for two consecutive years have dried up water sources and farmers have insufficient water for farming, growing vegetables and raising animals for their livelihood. During the dry season, water level in the reservoirs is lower than the canals. As a result, we have no water, and especially poor farmers who are far from the canals are unable to farm. Water shortages for humans and livestock caused chickens, ducks and pigs to die of diseases. Our women are able to apply very few techniques in the System of Rice Intensification due to the lack of labor force, water and time in applying those techniques.

In addition to the above mentioned difficulties, capital is utmost important and most of us have access to loans from microfinance institutions with high interest (1.8% to 3% per month) including extra costs on loan processing that is worsening our already poor living conditions and we need to deposit a land title as collateral. Once there is repayment to microfinance institutions, sometimes it forces us to borrow money from village moneylenders to pay back (10% in 10 days). Those loans are used to build houses, buy vehicles, two wheel walking tractors, land and  sometimes to pay for medical treatments.

Another big issue is the fluctuating prices of goods and that the prices are set by business people, causing us to hardly have any control, especially when planting the same crops but selling in cheap price. For example, prices of pork (6,500Riels/kg equal US$1.62/kg) and beef are going down at the present time along with other agricultural products. We face difficulty in competing with imported products. Organic vegetables are produced but sometimes are difficult to transport for sales because of the lack of mechanism to collectively buy these products from villages to sell at the market whereas the local market does not value organic vegetables. We do not have proper crop calendar  growing vegetables, and proper seed selection techniques and choosing seed varieties (for high yields) and to avoid producing too much of the same products that would result in lower price. We also need methods and techniques for packing and processing agricultural products to have good price and high quality.

We have savings groups but not in all villages and not well functioning yet.

Most agricultural agents are men who train on rice production but they do not focus on how to store, preserve and process those production. Most of our women have low education, with just primary school level due to family burdens since young age. These make it hard for poor women farmers to acquire new knowledge and economic, agricultural and market information and to use the Internet, thus losing opportunities to absorb knowledge in business planning, farming, storing, processing based on new technology and improving other benefits.

We, women farmers, would like to request the relevant institutions involving in promoting agricultural sector as below:

  1. Develop policies that could minimize loan interest rate (between 1% to 1.2%) for women farmers to invest in agricultural production.
    Institution: Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF)
  2. All loans should clearly identify the types of business and all loan processing  should be widely publicized and in writing in order to reduce further costs.
    Insitution: Civil Society Orgnization (CSOs) and Microfinance Institutions (MFIs)
  3. Formulate technical groups to help women farmers on business plans, agricultural plans, implementation and product processing. It is required technical experts to train women farmers on record keeping and on income-expense analysis.
    Institution: Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and Microfinance Institutions (MFIs)
  4. Build women farmers network to protect and promote mutual interests such as building supply chains or allocating production so as to avoid production duplications resulting in low price and to develop special program providing employments for poor women farmers.
    Institution: CSOs
  5. Develop policies to promote entrepreneur and provide financial support for them to purchase farmers’ products in local communities for sales in the market.
    Institution: MAFF
  6. Formulate self-help groups (or saving for change group) and train them on how to mobilize revolving funds and access credit with low interest rate (1%) as well as to train these groups on how to manage their finances with high transparency and accountability. These groups will be able to pay for the use of water from the reservoirs or canals.
    Institution: MAFF
  7. Study on irrigation systems and construct new irrigation systems that can store water for use in dry season; and rehabilitate main canals and mobilizing and promoting ownership of farmers build their own drainage at their individual farm.
    Institution: MAFF, Ministry of Water Resources And Metrology (MOWRAM) and , Ministry of Rural Development (MRD).
  8. Develop water canal systems to all remote farmers’ fields and to manage, maintain and distribute water adequately, and establish farmer water user committees which will pay for use of water.
    MAFF, Ministry of Water Resources And Metrology (MOWRAM), Ministry of Rural Development (MRD).and None Government Organizations (NGOs)
  9. Increase number of agricultural trainers in all communes and support agricultural technical and agricultural information extension activities to famers especially women farmers in the communities.
    Institution: MAFF
  10. Provide proper information and proper methods on climate change adaptation to farmers and support them to develop strategic planning to ensure sufficient food production.
    Institution: MOWRAM and MAFF
  11. Prepare crop calendar with communities to avoid duplicated crop production.
    Institution: MAFF and NGOs
  12. Develop markets for agricultural products especially vegetables and fruit. 
    Institution: MAFF and Ministry of Commerce (MOC)
  13. Develop local markets for organic agricultural products and widely promote those products through organizing special events for promoting and selling agricultural products and processed products in communities.
    Institution: CSOs
  14. Increase number of female training agents and extend wider scope of training on agricultural techniques, vegetable production, , packaging, processing and developing small scale agricultural enterprise.
    Institution: MAFF
  15. Reduce burden of grandparent from taking care of their grandchildren and give them opportunities to touch agricultural work and advocating commune councils to establish childcare centers and kindergartens in all villages.
    Institution: NCDD, Ministry of Woman Affair (MOWA), and Mininstry of Education, Youth and Sport (MoEYS)
  16. Develop literacy class and fundamental business planning including financial literacy for women farmers.
    Institution: MOWA and MoEYS
  17. Educate village  focal women on use of fertilizer and pesticide, reproductive health and hygiene to women so that they can echo disseminate to other women farmers in the villages.
    Institution: MAFF and MOWA
  18. Develop policies to support domestic agricultural products and define clear rules on importing agricultural products from neighboring countries as well as providing seeds, capital and ensure stable price of domestic agricultural products.
    Institution: MAFF
  19. Promote agricultural research institutions on seeds purification or provide purification techniques to farmers especially women and to preserve and select quality seeds for planting.
    Institution: CARDI, MAFF
  20. Coordinate agreements between farmers especially women and buyers to protect mutual benefits of all parties involved (products must be in good quality and the price based on market rate).
    Institution: MAFF
  21. Increase opportunities for women farmers in participating in events, training, and meetings in order to improve their knowledge, skills and participation in planning and implementation climate change resilient agriculture.
    Institution: MAFF, CSO
  22. Provide opportunity for women farmers to participate in discussions and making decisions on agricultural, markets, capital and water issues.
    Institution: MAFF, CSO
  23. Develop women empowerment programs and equitable measures to promote gender equality in agriculture.
    Institution: CSO
  24. Enforce gender mainstreaming policy in agriculture to be implemented at sub-national and local levels.
    Institution: MAFF

Today, we, as women farmers, assemble here to make a joint statement: we will put our best efforts and seek supports from relevant institutions in order to jointly solve the problems and to overcome all difficulties and challenges we are facing now.