Mentoring Entrepreneurs in the Cambodian Safe Vegetable Value Chain

Child on a boat

Providing support for safe vegetable value chain farmers, suppliers, and stakeholders.

Safe vegetables promote health, as they are typically free from chemical and microbiological hazards. A safe vegetable value chain (SVVC) includes all of the linked market actors, extending from input providers to local farmers to marketers selling to consumers who seek safe vegetables as part of their routine diet. The USAID project funded by the Horticulture Innovation Lab, “Innovations to build and scale safe vegetable value chains in Cambodia,” aims to strengthen dynamic elements within Cambodian value chain linkages, resulting in improved safe vegetable production and postharvest practices through distribution of products to consumers.

One of the main components of this project is to provide mentoring support to entrepreneurs and value chain participants. Building the Cambodian SVVC is more than just introducing potential partners and technologies—it requires building social capital and developing trusted working relationships. The project approach aims to empower local people to become leaders and teachers within their communities and businesses, placing a significant effort on facilitating relationships to develop solutions that function at multiple stakeholder levels within existing local systems.

In February 2017, faculty members from Royal University of Agriculture (RUA), University of Battambang (UBB) and University of California-Davis (UC Davis) held a Partnering Workshop in Battambang to initiate project planning activities with value chain stakeholders, including vegetable producers, input suppliers, vegetable marketers and shippers, and supporters of the safe vegetable value chain from the Cambodian Department of Agriculture and associated non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

The workshop covered:

  • Introduction to the project, including objectives of the workshop and field tours
  • Activities and farmer-led trainings to make interaction between all SVVC stakeholders
  • Gathering information to identify SVVC priorities and challenges
  • Methodology of Focus Group Discussions, SWOT analysis, and farmer-to-farmer training
  • Preliminary review of results and way forward

Aside from the focus group discussions, workshop participants also took part in market tours to assess how vegetables were currently distributed and sold, as well as field tours of participating farmers who demonstrated adopted technologies and techniques. Throughout these events, faculty members from the three partnering universities supported each other by providing recommendations on how to conduct workshop discussions, economic analyses, and market surveys.

The participatory events of this partnering workshop produced volumes of useful information that detail the foundation, focus, and rationale for the current SVVC. Particularly, this workshop gathered information about the current SVVC situation by facilitating interaction between all value chain participants. Below are some photos taken during the participatory workshop and site tours, courtesy of Sam Oeurn Ke, UC Davis Humphrey Fellows alum.

Professor Young discusses how to conduct workshop
Glenn Young (left) and Karen LeGrand (right), mentoring Royal of University of Agriculture faculty, Mr. Tong Socheath (center), on how to conduct the focus group discussions later in the day. This is one example of the UC Davis team’s strategic plan to build capacity of local counterparts to conduct research and training after the USAID Safe Vegetable Value Chain project is completed.

Dr. Buntong gives project overview
Dr. Borarin Buntong, Director of Research and Extension at the Royal University of Agriculture (standing), giving a project overview of the “Innovations to build and scale safe vegetable value chains in Cambodia” project to participants of partnering workshop and encouraging their ongoing participation for the next two and one half years.

Cambodian vegetable marketer introduces herself
Ms. Lep Asy (standing), a safe vegetable marketer within the value chain, is introducing herself and her business to participants of the partnering workshop and expressing interest in developing new partnerships that can diversify her business.

Cambodian farmer speaks about collaboration
Mr. Nov Keo (standing), a farmer from Sa’ang District who has participated with the UC Davis‐RUA Research Team since 2011 to build a safe vegetable value chain in Kandal province, is introducing himself and describing his experience with the research team and in the emerging safe vegetable value chain.

Workshop participants receive instruction
Project team describing to participants how they will participate in the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis by writing their ideas for each category on different colored sheets of paper, then posting their ideas under the appropriate category on the wall in the front of the conference room.

Workshop participants write about their farming challenges
Participants writing about their individual perceptions of the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats that exist in the current vegetable value chain while looking forward towards developing a safe vegetable value chain in Battambang province.

Project leaders discuss workshop results
In‐country project leaders Dr. Borarin Buntong (left) and Dr. Kim Hian Seng (right) discuss ways the results from the workshop activities can be incorporated into the collaboration between the Horticulture Innovation Lab and the IPM Innovation Lab.

UCD researchers discuss next steps
UC Davis Team members Dr. Karen LeGrand, Dr. Glenn Young, Dr. Cary Trexler and G. David Miller discussing workshop outcomes and the way forward for the project to impact the safe vegetable value chain in Battambang Province.

Participants conduct market survey at Beung Chhouk Market
Market survey conducted by workshop participants at Beung Chhouk Market who are making observations, discussing with sellers and taking notes about the types, origin, quality, price, etc. of fruits and vegetables found within this market.

Farmers discussing products with market sellers
Observations about the types and quality of products available and discussions with collectors and sellers about the price, origin, destination and postharvest practices being conducted by workshop participants on a tour at Phou Pouy Market, a new wholesale distribution center in Battambang.

Project researchers conducting economic analysis at Phou Pouy Market
Conducting an economic analysis of the value chain, UC Davis researchers Dr. Cary Trexler and G. David Miller discuss with University of Battambang researcher Hay Chanthol information gathered from wholesale marketers at Phou Pouy Market.

Researchers touring a Cambodian pepper farm
Field visit to pepper farm that was recently converted from a rice field based on favorable economic analysis of market demand.

Cambodian farmer shows leafy greens ready for market
Mr. San showing to the workshop participants his high quality leafy greens that are ready for the market.

Farmers stand around demonstration table
Farmer‐to‐farmer training by lead farmer in Krous Village. Farmers from other villages and provinces throughout Cambodia are watching a demonstration and taking detailed notes about organic fertilizer production.

Farmers, UC Davis staff and local officials talking about good farming practices
Mentoring in‐country partners and training farmers about good agronomic practices; UC Davis Investigator, Jim Hill (left), former UC Davis Humphrey’s Fellow, Sam Oreun Ke (right)

Researchers in the CoolBot
Elements of a cold-chain in Cambodia are budding as Horticulture Innovation Lab technology, CoolBot (small black box with red digits under the air conditioning unit), is being used in a safe vegetable shop in Phnom Penh to override the termostat and cool vegetables below normal air conditioned temperatures to extend the shelf life of vegetables.