By Maria Rowena M. Baltazar
His Excellency Ty Sokhun, Secretary of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, stressed that sustained rice production growth was a major goal for Cambodia at the launching of a new project promoting stress-tolerant rice varieties. Accelerating the Adoption of Stress-tolerant Rice Varieties by Smallholder Farmers in Nepal and Cambodia (USAID-ASTV), a USAID-funded project seeks to contribute to the efforts of the USAID and the government of Cambodia toward poverty and hunger reduction and increase food and income security for resource-poor farm households, through provision and distribution of high-yielding rice varieties tolerant of abiotic stresses.
“The current rice yield of 3.2 tons per hectare in Cambodia should be increased to be comparable with its neighboring countries like Vietnam with rice yields of more than 5 tons per hectare,” Sec. Sokhun said. “This would be possible through the distribution of new stress-tolerant rice varieties being developed by USAID-ASTV and encouraging farmers to adopt them.”
Bruce Tolentino, deputy director general for communication and partnerships at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), added “Two aspects for the secret of rice growth in Cambodia are farmers’ easy access to modern rice varieties from IRRI since the start of their partnership; and Cambodia’s openness to trade and linkages with Thailand and Vietnam.
“Under this new IRRI-Cambodia partnership, Cambodia needs to be not only self-sufficient in its rice production,” Dr. Tolentino added. “But it must also develop its rice trade, have its own markets, and its own brand.”
Dr. Faith Bartz, USAID representative, emphasized the need for a strong partnership among the stakeholders of the project to ensure the success of its implementation.
The USAID-ASTV inception and planning workshop, held on 8 and 9 June in Phnom Penh, was attended by over 60 participants from the General Directorate of Agriculture-Department of Rice Crops, Provincial Department of Agriculture, Cambodian Agricultural Research and Development Institute, seed producers and millers, international and non-governmental organizations, and the Royal University of Agriculture (RUA), and Nagoya University (satellite campus in RUA).
Dr. Abdelbagi Ismail, IRRI principal scientist, is the overall project leader for USAID-ASTV. Dr. Dule Zhao, IRRI Representative to Cambodia, is the project coordinator in Cambodia while Dr. Uma Shankar Singh, IRRI senior scientist based in India, is Nepal’s project coordinator.
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