The importance of gender in improving vegetable value chains in Svay Rieng Cambodia

Ly Sereyrith

Vegetable production is one of the main sources of income for the majority of poor, rural farmers in the Svay Rieng province of Cambodia. Despite the economic value of vegetable production here, farmers still practice traditional methods that result in reduced productivity and less efficient use of agricultural inputs including labour and financial investments.

Both male and female farmers are generally hesitant to adopt new technologies and agricultural practices unless there is demonstrable evidence that these practices improve yields. Whereas traditional extension approaches have had a limited impact due to their primary focus on male farmers and failure to adequately address gender, SNV incorporates the specific knowledge and skills that both women and men need.

SNV is working to enhance the quality of agricultural advisory services by strengthening the capacity of the Cambodian Farmer Association Federation of Agricultural Producers (CFAP) and its commune farmer associations. These associations represent farmer households and work to integrate them into the vegetable value chain. CFAP represents almost 8,000 member households, of which 4,500 are female-headed households. CFAP provides services to smallholder farmers and producers groups to improve agricultural productivity.

Together with CFAP, SNV has organised vegetable contests on a wider community scale that have brought female and male farmers alongside buyers, market vendors and relevant provincial government staff in an environment where they can informally share market knowledge, build trust and better understand each other’s needs. In Svang Rien, 102 female farmers, out of a total out of 150 participants, took part in these vegetable contests. Through their participation, female farmers can learn how to better grade their vegetables for better prices from the participating vegetable traders.

The range of interventions supported by SNV and its partners cover three main areas:

  • Organisational development;
  • Productivity improvements; and
  • Market intelligence.

Project Outcomes

  • All CFAP staff gained more knowledge of improved vegetable production techniques and underwent  skill building in gender-sensitive leadership and entrepreuneurship and marketing techniques, and  offered training to members and farmers.
  • Based on the ToT modules, CFAP staff developed a training curriculum and delivered training to 220 farmer households in seven communes, specifically targeting the differentiated roles of men and women. The training was attended by 34 leaders of commune farmer associations from 21 communes, of which 12 were women.
  • The collaboration with CFAP has enabled the expansion of gender-sensitive advisory approaches to other agricultural subsectors. Without further support from SNV, CFAP staff successfully replicated the approaches used in the vegetable value chain project in their rice production and chicken raising projects in other 3 provinces of Cambodia.
  • 175 households were able to apply the acquired knowledge and skills, with each household earning between 4DASH15 US$ per day from vegetables sales.
  • Female farmers that had received training reported that they were now able to make informed decisions regarding when and how to harvest their vegetables, how and to whom to sell their produce.
  • As a result of the entrepreneurial and marketing skills and leadership skills training provided, men and women were able to make joint plans on how to invest the income generated to benefit the household.

Lessons Learned

In the two years of implementing the vegetable intervention programme in Svay Rieng province, a number of lessons have been learned:

  • To improve women’s empowerment a thorough gender analysis on gender needs to be done prior to the design of any intervention. This analysis can help CFAP and commune farmer associations to better mainstream gender, while working to address the specific needs of their member farmers.
  • One important consideration is that projects and programmes that aim to increase women’s economic empowerment should involve both women and men as partners. If only women have the knowledge, but men do not, things may revert to the way they were.
  • A training or capacity building programme should be designed based on the roles the husband and wife play in the household to address their respective strengths.
  • Application of visual aids and more practice during training, rather than lengthy theory in the classroom, makes a big difference for women participants in terms of interest in learning and applying the knowledge acquired, particularly those with low literacy and numeracy skills.
  • Projects and programmes need to understand the practical challenges faced by women at the household level, as well as in leadership positions, in order to provide enough support to foster women’s involvement and develop their leadership skills.
Year of publication: 
SNV Case story collection
Themes and sectors: 
Agriculture, fisheries, and food security
Themes and sectors: 

The above is a summary or extract from the original source material. For the complete case story, please see the address given above.