Greenhouse innovations: empowering farmers for year-round vegetable production
Securing year-round vegetable production is a viable strategy recommended to farmers to ensure consistent market supply and receive better prices. To achieve this, farmers should use greenhouses to protect their crops from heavy rains and pest damage. Greenhouses offer numerous benefits, including year-round production, micro-climate control, and improved market prices. However, challenges such as humidity, wind damage, and high upfront costs exist.
SNV's Cambodia Horticulture Advancing Income and Nutrition project (CHAIN) partnered with greenhouse service providers in Phnom Penh to introduce farmers to this alternative technology that protects vegetables. Training offered to farmers focused on balancing quality production and the risks of pest outbreaks and water logging. Leveraging co-investment from participating farmers, the project built over 30 greenhouses across four provinces and repaired another 14 different model greenhouses to trial and observe how these models performed.
However, the distance between greenhouse builders and provinces posed logistical challenges, hindering repairs. Several greenhouses suffered from wind damage during storms, and the greenhouse companies refused to travel to the provinces due to high transportation costs.
To overcome this, CHAIN decided to co-invest with two entrepreneurial farmers in Oddar Meanchey and Kratie to establish a new type of SME: greenhouse installation and repair services. Each entrepreneur received $2,000 for materials, incubating local SMEs and making greenhouses more accessible and affordable. This initiative aimed to enhance the market system for year-round safe vegetable production.
Mr. Bin Hongly, a 35-year-old farmer from Kratie province, was one of the selected entrepreneurs. After receiving training and learning how to build greenhouses through exchange visits to several provinces, he decided to offer installation services.
'I was still undecided whether to run a greenhouse installation service or not', Mr. Hongly said, 'I met and discussed with CHAIN staff about offering greenhouse instalment training to farmers in my province.'
'Greenhouse are very expensive for farmers, so some are reluctant to buy them. Farmers, however, see the benefits of growing vegetables in greenhouses, such as reducing fertiliser and pesticide use through pest control mechanisms. Their vegetables are in high demand with good prices', shared Mr. Hongly, who was inspired by the success of locally-constructed high-output greenhouse models and the increased productivity they offered. 'I also did not expect vertical agriculture in greenhouses to be able to boost productivity to such an extent', he added.
Currently, Mr. Hongly provides greenhouse installation and repair services to more than 20 farmers in his province and receives inquiries from neighboring areas. By using cost-effective materials and innovative techniques, he reduced the price of greenhouses significantly. For instance, he constructed a commercial model with ventilation shafts using cheaper materials, lowering the price to $2,000. Additionally, he built bamboo structures priced at $1,500. Farmers are eager to see the longevity of these affordable greenhouses and are already placing orders with Mr. Hongly.
In Cambodia, the cost of a 250 m2 metal pole greenhouse with a UV resistant plastic roof is approximately $6,000. Cheaper models, like plastic tunnels, exist but often lack proper ventilation. The price of greenhouses varies depending on suppliers and input quality, while free handouts from development projects can undermine the market. However, Mr. Hongly's innovative approach is making greenhouses more accessible to farmers, encouraging sustainable vegetable production and improving livelihoods in the region.