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Presentation

The project Cambiodiversity, jointly prepared by the Organisation for International Dialogue and Conflict Management, the BOKU and the Royal University of Agriculture (Cambodia), has been intended to deal with the issue of biodiversity in Cambodia. It aimed, on the one hand, at analysing the current pre-eminent position of rice in Cambodian agricultural system and at assessing, on the other hand, the probability and conditions for a further diversification.

In Cambodia, rice is presenting the predominantly grown crop, covering some 80% of the total agricultural area and providing the population’s main caloric intake. Other crops, such as soybeans or mungbeans, taro, groundnuts or sesame, are not sufficiently considered by national policies or research. Therefore, they only occupy a marginal place within the rice-based farming system, despite the nutritional and economic value they could have for the population. This strong concentration on rice and the neglect of other crops give rise to several risks and problems, notably to a non-balanced nutrition, a non-secure and unsustainable food supply due to external dependencies and the global threat of constant genetic resources disappearance.

In this perspective, the main purpose of the project Cambiodiversity has been to analyse the circumstances of the current rice predominance in Cambodia, and to jointly elaborate recommendations for a sustainable diversification of the Cambodian agriculture. By assessing the feasibility and acceptance and evaluating the probability, potential and conditions for diversifying the Cambodian rice-based farming system, the three project partners from Austria and Cambodia intended to make a substantial contribution towards ensuring the population’s balanced nutrition and well-being, the country’s (sustainable) development and economic progress as well as global biodiversity. While previous studies and research projects in this field have primarily focussed on the questions of technical feasibility and land capability, Cambiodiversity aimed also to examine and analyse why rice has become such a predominant crop and to elaborate, on this basis, recommendations for sustainable agricultural diversification in Cambodia.

The project involved three types of activities.

1. In a first phase, some 180 interviews have been conducted with farmers, and some additional 60 with researchers, policy makers and other stakeholders. These have allowed to assess the major reasons for the country’s focus on rice, elicit experiences, perceptions and concerns as regards the opportunities, constraints and potential impacts of crop diversification, and finally consider the economic and political context.

2. Based on these surveys, recommendations for a further potential diversification of the Cambodian agriculture have been elaborated, and presented to policy makers, extension workers and interested stakeholders.

3. The joint attendance by the project partners of an international meeting on “Networking on conservation and use of plant genetic resources in Europe and Asiaheld in Kunming, China, in September 2008 has given the possibility to present and discuss first assessment results, while allowing for the exchange of experiences and best practices. By providing an important opportunity for the creation of relevant networks on the regional as well as on the international level, this meeting may be important for paving the way for further cooperation and research projects in the future, notably in the field of biodiversity and plant genetic resource conservation.

Picture by A. Meyer

 



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