From homestead farming to commercial farming

CHAIN project empowers smallholder farmers in Cambodia.

Mr. Yum standing next to a greenhouse

SNV’s eight year CHAIN project was initiated to improve horticultural production and market opportunities for smallholder farmers in certain provinces in Cambodia. These farmers grew vegetables for their own consumption, using traditional techniques – homestead farmers, and sold a little bit of their surplus. However, these methods were a barrier to their growth and financial improvement.

Considering this context, CHAIN designed an intervention program to support and encourage farmers to transition from homestead farming systems to commercial farming. The program provided intensive training on production techniques, business, and access to buyers. The intended changes focused on increasing farm size, production technologies, production and market planning, and increasing number of cycles grown per year. The program was successful, and the farmers improved their production output, modernised their planting techniques, used and managed modern agricultural inputs more effectively, and made production plans for syncing their production with market demand.

Over time, the farmers felt more confident in adopting new farming technologies and communicating with traders and agricultural input suppliers. The success of the graduation program came mainly from farmers' commitment to improving their farming systems and practices through adopting modern production techniques and expanding their cultivation areas with support from project stakeholders.

Mr. Chao Yum is a model farmer in his community who has adopted modern climate resilient farming technologies to produce safe, local vegetables while being less dependent on weather conditions. Despite a disability he has in his leg, he is an active member of the farmer group in his home village in the Oddar Meanchey province, is open to making investments in his farm, and has adopted new technologies in vegetable growing.

Mr. Yum and colleagues from CHAIN project pose for a photo
Mr. Yum standing next to a greenhouse

Before joining the CHAIN project in 2016, the 62 year-old was a homestead farmer growing vegetables on a yearly basis at the end of the rainy season between September and November on an area of 100 m2. This supplied him with vegetables for home consumption and some additional income, as his family’s main income came from logging and collecting non-timber forest products. After learning new production techniques through training provided by CHAIN and the government extension staff, Mr. Yum increased his vegetable growing area to approximately 5000 m2. He invested in a plastic tunnel nethouse on a 300 m2 plot and installed two more one once he learned how to produce in the nethouse. He also invested in various smart water solutions including a borehole and one extra pond to enable him to grow more crop cycles during the dry season to produce year-round. This was possible through a cost sharing arrangement with CHAIN.

Mr. Yum is an example of the change that can happen when farmers adopt new technologies learned through training. In the last year, he earned nearly 8 million Cambodian riels – some 2,000 USD – from vegetable growing. He is much more confident in his ability to use new technologies and increase his family’s income.

Currently, vegetable production is the main income for my family. I am very interested in investing in and trialling new technologies, such as plastic tunnel net houses and solar pumps for my vegetable production. I have also been encouraging other farmers to use these technologies and techniques to ensure that they can produce vegetables year-round’. As of late 2022, Mr. Yum grows high value crops like tomatoes, cabbage and cauliflower in a greenhouse, and yellow watermelon, choysum and curly cabbage in the open field.

In conclusion, the CHAIN project's intervention program has been successful in enabling smallholder farmers to shift from subsistence to commercial farming. The program's focus on providing intensive training on production techniques, business, and access to buyers has helped farmers modernise their planting techniques, adopt new farming technologies, and improve their communication with traders and agricultural input suppliers. Mr. Yum's success story demonstrates how the adoption of new technologies can increase production output, improve income, and make farmers more resilient to climate change. By promoting sustainable and climate-resilient farming practices, the CHAIN project has contributed to food security and poverty reduction in the target provinces.