Women and youth as catalysts of climate-smart agriculture in Cambodia

In developing countries, societal roles and economic constraints can restrict women and youth to certain activities and/or lead to the exploitation of their labor. This disempowers these actors and makes them passive recipients of “development.” These actors, then, must transform into active agents who decide their own brand of development, especially in the agriculture sector.

The CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) aims to equip women and youth with the relevant knowledge, skills, attitudes, and practices to build empowered individuals and communities. The Climate-Smart Village (CSV) approach of CCAFS not only empowers communities, but they also become productive and more resilient against climate change.

Meet Saveth

Saveth is a young female farmer from Rohal Suong CSV in Cambodia. Since 2016, she has been involved in several climate-smart agriculture (CSA) activities in her village. Specifically, she helped in the pilot implementation of CSA practices such as the plant clinic, water harvesting and use of stress-tolerant rice varieties. Through these practices, Saveth learned how to identify diseases in and appropriate treatments for the crops.

These CSA activities were beneficial to her personal development as well. Unlike before when she was anxious to talk in public, Saveth now feels comfortable in various community engagements. Aside from acting as a community organizer, she is serving as an assistant to their plant clinic. These experiences allow her to understand the gender-specific needs of farmers, as well as the issues pervading the youth sector in agriculture.

Saveth is working in her community to educate the farmers about climate-smart agriculture and help with the adoption of climate-smart technologies and practices. Photo: Dyna Eam (WorldFish)

Due to her extensive experiences at the ground level as a plant clinic assistant, she was recruited as a commune extension worker for the Agricultural Services Program for Innovation, Resilience and Extension (ASPIRE). Her involvement in the ASPIRE program further improved her skills and capacities in implementing CSA technologies and practices.

Her knowledge on CSA was further enriched when she participated in the last two roving workshops organized by CCAFS in Cambodia and Lao People’s Democratic Republic. These workshops served as learning platforms for CSV farmers and provided an avenue for them to interact with experts and their peers.

Praxis-oriented: theory and practice learned together

For Saveth, the roving workshops deepened her understanding of other agricultural practices in neighboring Southeast Asian countries. She learned how to apply climate-smart practices such as chicken raising, goat raising, tree nursing and safe vegetable crop productions, which were previously unfamiliar to her. Such activities further moulded Saveth as an active agent of CSA in her village—someone who consciously works with her community to address agriculture issues together.

She is also seen as someone who “walks the talk.” She is practising several CSA technologies and practices on her farm such as safe vegetable crop production and pest-smart management. “I [now] know [that] chemical and pesticides [are detrimental] to [our] health. Smart pest management provides very good benefits [in] both health and incomes,” explained Saveth as she narrated her experiences during the roving workshops.

Due to her efforts to promote CSA in her community, women and young farmers are actively learning new agriculture practices and innovations. Savy, a female farmer in Rohal Suong CSV, shared that she had already learned from Saveth several climate-smart practices such as soil improvement and climate-smart pest management. Women now see that they can perform these CSA initiatives by themselves. Specifically, with more access and involvement in agricultural activities, they are gaining recognition for their roles in family and agricultural development.

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