Cambodia’s population is essentially rural (76,6% in 2018), with one third of its inhabitants trying to survive with less that 1$ a day; the country is now facing the same problems European agriculture has been facing since the end of the last century.
The conventional, intensive farming that is currently being practised in Cambodia uses many chemical inputs. With the predominance of rice monoculture, the country is obliged to import the large majority of its vegetable produce (estimated at 80%). The combination of monoculture and extensive use of pesticides prevents the regeneration of the soil, causing a drop in the yields of agriculture production.
Today, there are few actors in Cambodia offering concrete solutions to these issues, such as awareness campaigns and training of the population in sustainable, environmentally friendly farming. At the Bayon School, we feel that transmitting the principles in agroecology could be a long-term solution.
Since 2018, the Bayon School has been running a sustainable agricultural project by training some of the families of our pupils in agroecology. By planting vegetable gardens on their plots, they are now able to bring in extra income by supplying the canteen at the primary school with locally grown, pesticide-free vegetables.
This project is currently improving the living conditions of 11 families of the primary school, as they produce close to 30 kg of vegetables each day.
The teaching content of the programme will need to meet these two criteria, which are essential to the success of the project. In the space of one year, our future students will have gained both technical skills (how to restore the soil’s fertility, protect crops, transform and recycle production, etc.) as well as entrepreneurial know-how (communication, sales and income management, how to work together and innovate, development of soft skills, etc.).
Our medium- and long-term ambition is to promote awareness and the value of more responsible farming practises in Cambodia. To achieve this goal, our first intake of students will need to become the ambassadors of agroecology in Cambodia, where the market for organic produce is still a niche market just waiting to develop. It is a real investment for the future.