One of the ASPIRE strategies to link agriculture products from farm gate to market is to facilitate the development of smallholder farmer Business Cluster and strengthen the group business structure.
A cluster is a geographic concentration of interconnected stakeholders which creates direct and indirect synergies among them. The key actors include input suppliers, farmers, buyers, service providers, financial institution and government agencies. A cluster can be seen as a tool to:
- Accelerate inclusive growth within the selected commodity chain;
- Stimulating long term participation of smallholder farmers in the selected value chain;
- Improve value chain performance in term of competitiveness, fairness, coordination, and trust;
- Improve partnership between public, private, civil sectors and producers.
Agriculture Services Programme for Innovation, Resilience and Extension (ASPIRE) is a programme of the Royal Government of Cambodia, supported by International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD). The purpose of ASPIRE is to improve the extension services available to Cambodia’s smallholder farmers. ASPIRE works with farmers and especially with poor and vulnerable smallholder farmers, to develop their farms into a resilient and profitable business.
One of the vegetable clusters, which is supported by ASPIRE Programme, located in Ponleu village, ChamrasPen commune, Samrong district, Takeo province was set up to enable smallholder farmers to be empowered as a collective group to market and sell their products more competitively, fairly and reliably in term of quantity and quality. Extension support provided by ASPIRE includes climate-smart agriculture technology, market network connection, and postharvest technology. Provided with this support, smallholders collectively as a cluster are able to build and foster relationships and trust with traders, buyers and market chain stores to competitively sell the products, and generate fair profits for the members.
Ms. Khat Sa Em is one of the Leaders of Vegetable Cluster and a Training of Trainer of ASPIRE programme. She describes how the cluster works to make all her members grow together.
“I help the farmer by checking their vegetable and do ranking its quality and put into each quality category. Weighing their vegetables and do a record. If the amount of payment from the company (iDE) is different from a record, then we will contact the company.”
Per day her cluster can supply vegetables to the market between 2 to 4 tons, and with diversified cropping and set schedule for planting to each member, her cluster can supply vegetables to the market for a whole year.
“Per day more than 2 tones and sometimes 3 to 4 tones which needed two trucks to transport all vegetables to the market.”
A vegetable value chain is a set of linkages between actors that actively seek to support each other, so they can increase their efficiency and competitiveness; especially they can cooperatively increase their profits.
“I was trained by the ASPIRE programme on seed selection, climate-resilient and so on. They trained me, and then I train other farmers. Actually, between farmer and farmer, we have a better understanding of each other.”
Ms. Khat Sa Em also stresses that all farmers are happy while the cluster did a contract farming with one private company to buy all their vegetables even this contract is not stated at a specific price.
“All vegetables never leftover, while LusTmey (iDE) Company guarantees to buy all from farmers, and if the company cannot sell all out, they can do pickle.”
Per 2,000square meters of land, each farmer of Ms. Khat Sa Em’s cluster can generate their income of around 3 million riels or around $US 750. And with this reason, now most of them start to expand their farming land.
“For this season, farmers are so happy because they really can make a profit at least 3 to 4 million riels for 2000 square meters of land. And if 1,000 square meters of land, they can generate income more than one million riels. They are happy, and now they increase their land size.”
With 37 households cluster, Ms. Khat Sa Em stressed that this cluster can be considered as momentum for promoting agriculture practice. And now the number of people migrating has decreased while farmland in her area is seen almost everywhere in a region.
“We get income from farming more than doing migration work, and our fund investment comes from a loan. But after harvesting, we can repay the lender, with remaining profit to pay for children’s school fees, especially, having a family gathering and also no more domestic violence. So our success spread out widely. And what I gain knowledge from agricultural technique trainer, and then I also deliver all theories with real practice to others.”