Development projects supported by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) have contributed to increasing incomes and assets in parts of rural Cambodia, according to the findings of a new evaluation report presented today in Phnom Penh.
The evaluation assesses the results and performance of IFAD-financed projects and provides recommendations for the continued partnership between IFAD and Cambodia in their efforts to reduce rural poverty. The evaluation covers the period between 2000-2016, during which IFAD approved seven rural development projects for a total of US$166 million.
“For over two decades, IFAD has been helping rural Cambodians rise from poverty by increasing opportunities for them to improve their livelihoods,” said Khalida Bouzar, IFAD’s Director, who attended on behalf of the Associate Vice-President of the Programme Management Department. “IFAD’s projects on the ground have provided agricultural support, access to finance and infrastructure. They have contributed to increased agricultural productivity and production. For example, one completed project reported that the beneficiaries had on average 17 per cent higher yield for rice than comparable non-project households.”
In addition, Bouzar noted that the projects supported by IFAD in Cambodia have consistently focused on gender issues and giving women better access to economic opportunities: “For example, IFAD has supported chicken-raising and handicrafts, which are almost in all cases taken up by women. By actively promoting women’s participation in project activities, leadership and training, IFAD support has also contributed to increasing women’s decision-making influence in public spheres.”
Since 1996 when IFAD started its operations in the country, over 1.2 million poor and disadvantaged rural households have been reached through IFAD’s projects.
Keeping pace with change and with Government policies
According to the report, IFAD’s operations have adapted to the country’s changing needs, especially those resulting from the strong economic growth that Cambodia has recently experienced. In 2007, the poverty level was around 50 per cent; by 2014, it had dropped to 13.5 per cent. But a large share of the Cambodian population has moved only slightly above the poverty line and there are significant movements in and out of poverty. Consequently, it continues to be important to help those rural households strengthen their resilience.
“Attention in the recent projects to supporting market-oriented agriculture is relevant in the changing rural context, also to interest the younger generation to stay in rural areas and in agriculture as a feasible income opportunity on the rise,” said Fabrizio Felloni, Deputy Director of IFAD’s Independent Office of Evaluation.
IFAD-financed projects have supported agricultural training and extension services, often combined with group revolving funds, as a way to improve the agricultural productivity of poor rural households. For example, the Project for Agriculture Development and Economic Empowerment (PADEE) had contributed to improving livelihoods and incomes of smallholders in Saang district, Kandal province. Prasat Commune is a village of former fishermen. Fish resources in the rivers have declined dramatically and by 2013 there were hardly any fish to catch. The area is flood-prone leaving limited possibilities for agricultural activities. Many households used to get by with wages earned by children, for example, daughters working in a garment factory. PADEE in 2013 helped households to establish a revolving fund. Members were trained in aquaculture and vegetable production, which became very popular. Thanks to skills learned and inputs that can be bought with loans from the revolving fund, today they have large fields of chilli, eggplants and yams, which have a good local market and provide the major part of their income.
The projects have been aligned with Government priorities to promote rural transformation, particularly by increasing the agricultural productivity of poor rural households. A series of projects effectively supported the Government’s “decentralization and deconcentration” policy by channelling investments for agriculture and rural development through decentralized structures and providing provincial departments and sub-national administrations with opportunities for “learning by doing”.
The evaluation recommended, among other actions, tailored support to relatively advanced smallholder farmers as well as poorer households, fostering further partnerships with farmer and indigenous peoples’ organizations and stronger collaboration between IFAD and the Government to mobilize other partners to invest in smallholder agriculture.