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13 July 2022 - Story

Smart grants open more opportunities for STEER’s adoptive farmers in agriculture markets

A 36-year-old adoptive farmer, Mr. Chhorm Chhai, who is also a local collector and coco peat producer, has managed to produce crops and supply the market after receiving smart grants and being equipped with skills and resilient agricultural techniques.

Mr. Chhai and his 34-year-old wife, Ms. An Sopheala, both live in Koki Chrum village, Russei Chrum commune, Koh Kong’s Thma Bang District, with their two young daughters currently studying in kindergarten in Russei Chrum primary school.

Mr. Chhai was invited to join the “System Approach to Transformative Economic Empowerment and Resilience (STEER)” Activity in late 2019 as an adoptive farmer. He had the opportunity to join relevant training and learn smart agricultural skills after being interviewed and admitted to using agrochemical products for his planting.

According to Mr. Chhai, he planted many kinds of fruits in the past, including durians, bananas, avocados, and fragrant coconuts, on 4,000 square meters of land and occasionally grew cabbages and sponge gourds. The crops, however, were not good as diseases and insects kept damaging them. He added that he had difficulty selling the yields, ensuring a stable price, and accessing the market outside the community.

Being one of the adoptive farmers chosen by the STEER team, Mr. Chhai was later convinced by Mr. Nhem Savuth, the Activity’s demo farmer, to use technical practices he learned to grow cucumbers and high-value crops. Since then, Mr. Chhai made 10 cycles of his vegetable crops on 7,080 square meters of land and earned up to 15 thousand US dollars from vegetables and 5 thousand US dollars from fruits.

He is a proactive farmer and has a strong interest in learning new agricultural techniques, which was demonstrated when Mr. Chhai said he has occasionally searched YouTube to learn and understand how farmers in other countries improved their planting.

At that time, I was interested in producing coco peats made from coco coir. I tried to produce it by hand as instructed in the YouTube video, and I mixed it with soil and crushed wood. The production consumed a lot of time, and it was clear that I had no technical concept in doing that. So I gave up,” said Mr. Chhai.

In mid-2021, Mr. Chhai was encouraged to pursue his ambition and was fortunately selected by the STEER team to receive smart grants that allowed him to produce coco peats. In August of the same year, he successfully operated the coco peats production with support from the technical teams and placed it for sale in Koh Kong province.

Shortly, he expanded his farming land to 46,000 square meters and provided a healthy living environment for his wife and daughters. He also provided jobs to three seasonal workers working at his farm. Mr. Chhai claimed that he can now generate up to 2,810 US$ monthly, allowing him to pay loans and enlarge his business.

“With this stable income, my wife and I have planned to send our two daughters to school and pursue a higher degree like a bachelor's, or even higher if they wanted to,” said Mr. Chhai.