5,000 farmers and other stakeholders built connections to learn about markets, technology, and nutrition at the provincial horticulture trade fairs in Stung Treng, Kratie, Preah Vihear and Oddar Meanchey that were organised between November 2016 and February 2017 by the Cambodia Horticulture Advancing Income and Nutrition (CHAIN) project and its partners. The CHAIN project is funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.
The fairs aimed to create market engagement and encourage the creation of local networks. With over 40 exhibitors per province, including 40 farmer- and processor groups, local traders, input suppliers, and service providers from public and private sector to micro-finance institutions, the events provided an excellent opportunity to establish new business relations. The fairs also functioned as a platform for information exchange amongst market actors and the public, featuring experts on various topics in agriculture and nutrition. Next to that, there was fun and excitement through music performances by local artists and a lucky draw with great prices sponsored by CHAIN and private sector partners. Each fair attracted between 1,500 and 3,000 visitors. 80% of the Stung Treng fair visitors are directly engaged with horticulture, 30% in Preah Vihear.
The Provincial Governors expressed their support for the horticulture sector at each location by providing the grounds and formally opening the events, while the Provincial Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery (PDAFF) managed the trade fairs in coordination with the Department of Women’s Affairs (PDoWA). “The cooperation in organising these events was amazing. Our partners [PDAFF and PDoWA] took responsibility and assisted with everything as agreed, also with facilitating discussions during the trade fairs.”, said Mr. Tongseng Kor, CHAIN’s provincial advisor in Stung Treng and Kratie.
The events also served to promote healthy diets and more diverse eating habits. This was done through communications about ‘Supermom’, the project’s concept to trigger behaviour change amongst parents to feed their children more vegetables. There were fun activities for children including games, colouring sheets, and stickers; teaching them that by eating ‘super-veggies’ they can become super-kids - healthy, strong, and intelligent. CHAIN and PDoWA presented Supermom in their booths at all four trade fairs, equipping parents with information about the nutrition campaign and healthy diets for their families while their children were playing. The space for children to colour pictures and participate in games was a huge success: More than 500 sheets were coloured in Oddar Meanchey.
Other booths and exhibitors helped visitors to get to know different actors within their local value chains, with input suppliers and traders being especially important to farmers for increasing their production. Positive feedback from surveys conducted at each fair showed that farmers learned a lot about the use of inputs and where to source them. Farmers who brought their produce to sell were met with impressive demand – most products were sold out even before the opening of the fairs. Other visitors stated that they were happy to have such events in their neighbourhood, and that they learned about healthy and safe food by visiting the fair.
The response by the exhibitors was positive also – most attending vendors were able to advertise and sell their products as expected. Many stated that they would like fairs like this to be organised annually, and for a longer period: “All actors asked for the trade fairs to be organised over at least two days,” said the responsible CHAIN provincial advisor. This would allow more people to attend and improve horticulture networks; resulting in improved services for farmers. To achieve this, CHAIN will encourage local players to take over the initiative of organising such events in the future.