Workshop highlights commitment to enhancing nutrition-sensitive agri-food systems in Cambodia's Mekong Delta

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The International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR) Cambodia collaborated with the Council for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) and the Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT (ABC) to organize a consultation workshop on nutrition-sensitive agri-food systems along the deltaic regions in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on December 05, 2023.

The workshop served as a venue for actors within food systems to exchange information on ongoing and upcoming activities and network related to nutrition-sensitive agri-food systems in the Mekong Delta of Cambodia. It provided a platform to present and validate the results of research findings from the scoping study and cases studies on nutrition-sensitive agri-food systems of the CGIAR Initiative on Asian Mega-Deltas Work Package 2 (AMD-WP2); to exchange information on ongoing and upcoming activities related to nutrition-sensitive agri-food systems in the Mekong Delta; and to derive lessons, good practices, and policy implications on designing and implementing Delta nutrition sensitive agri-food systems.

A total of 90 participants including 39 women, they represented various government bodies from CARD, General Directorate of Agriculture, Ministry of Industry, Science, Technology and Innovation, Ministry of Women Affairs, Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation, Royal University of Agriculture, representatives from development partners (World Bank, World Food Programme), non-government organizations, community-based organizations, research institutions, farmers, and private sectors.

In his opening message, Mr. Or Thy, the Director of IIRR Cambodia, emphasized the AMD Initiative’s importance in Cambodia. He pointed out that the agriculture and food systems in Cambodia demand significant capital but often yield low profits, sometimes resulting in losses. Therefore, the workshop aimed to engage stakeholders and producers in reviewing past efforts and devising sustainable production, diverse crops, and climate-resilient approaches to ensure food security and nutrition from farm to table.

H.E. Kao Muythong, Deputy Secretary General of CARD, emphasized the longstanding global importance of nutrition and CARD’s support for nutrition-sensitive agri-food systems. He stressed the need for cooperation, innovation, and stakeholder partnerships to strengthen food security and nutrition policies and regulations.

Dr. Deborah Nabuuma, scientist at ABC, introduced the project overview of AMD-WP2, covering its target, importance, challenges and activities covered in both 2022 and 2023. On the other hand, Mr. Chuon Sophea, from IIRR Cambodia, showed the findings on the scoping study on existing nutrition-sensitive agri-food system interventions in Mekong Delta, Cambodia. The scoping study covered activities targeting food systems, projects implemented and interventions related to nutrition-sensitive agri-food systems including their relevant issues, accomplishments and challenges.

Ms. Elizabeth Ignowski, scientist at WorldFish, presented the findings on changes in food consumption and food habits in the Mekong Delta. Her presentation detailed household food consumption, the share of food in total household expenditure, and the types of food consumed by each household in rural areas of the Mekong Delta provinces. This information indicated the level of food security in the households based on their expenditure, access to food, and types of food consumed.

Mr. Say Tom, Deputy Director of Department of Horticulture and Subsidiary Crop presented an overview of the Agriculture Service Programme for an Inclusive Rural Economy and Agricultural Trade (ASPIRE-AT). The project supported by the International Fund for Agricultural Development, which targets 17 provinces in Cambodia and is now planning to expand to 4 other provinces namely Kampong Speu, Kampot, Kampong Chnang and Pursat. This project’s beneficiaries are smallholder farmers as well as landless or land-poor householders in order to strengthen market access and public-private-partnership surrounding exports and production of agri-food in Cambodia.

After these remarkable presentations, a fruitful plenary discussion was arranged where participants were divided into six groups where they discussed what was missing in implementing nutrition-sensitive agri-food systems as well as what are the good practices and lesson learned with inclusion of gender aspects in the Mekong.

The last session introduced the ASEAN-CGIAR Innovate for Food and Nutrition Security Regional Program Intervention Package 8 (IP8) on Food Systems Transformation for More Nutritious Healthy Diets, which was presented by Dr. Ricardo Hernandez of ABC. The IP8 seeks to identify indicators which will better identify the data and processes of the food systems at the country level as well regional level which will explain and measure changes and identify intervention and investments to improve performance of the food systems.

In conclusion, H.E. Kao Muythong and Mr. Or Thy outlined a way forward, emphasizing collaboration with World Fish, ABC, CARD, SUNCSA, sub-national partners, NGOs, CSOs, and provincial levels to enhance nutrition-sensitive agri-food systems. The goal is to gather insights for a workshop report and incorporate them into Cambodia’s national policy and action plan. Lastly, H.E. Kao Muythong emphasized that behavior change among Cambodians in food consumption is crucial, as production alone does not ensure adequate food safety and nutrition for individuals.

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