Trilateral Cooperation Success for China-Cambodia-UNDP Cassava Project

Dec 12, 2014

Cambodian farmers receive training on cassava

From December 7th to 11th  2014, Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) and UNDP China participated in a joint monitoring mission to Phnom Penh, Kampong Cham and Tbaung Khmum, Cambodia. The mission was part of Phase II of China-Cambodia-UNDP Trilateral Cooperation Cassava project.

Cassava is the second most famous cash crop for Cambodian farmers after rice. Despite increasing productivity, cassava farmers are yet to benefit directly, largely due to their lack of direct access to the Chinese market.

To address this problem China, Cambodia and UNDP initiated a trilateral cooperation partnership in 2011. Phase I focused on providing cassava production training to 30 Cambodian agricultural practitioners from the Cambodian Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (MAFF). Building on this partnership, Phase II launched in May 2013 aimed at bringing more benefits to cassava farmers by mobilizing knowledge and expertise mainly from China. Through a needs assessment, an environmental study, a training manual and a business-matching exercise, the project addressed challenges faced in the Cambodian cassava sector, in turn promoting direct export of cassava to the Chinese market.

This monitoring mission was critical for gathering viewpoints on overall project delivery and lessons learned of Phase II. The delegation participated in the Project Board meeting where project results were debriefed and project plan for the coming three months was approved. A field trip to Kampong Cham and Tbaung Khmum, the most prominent cassava producing areas nearby Phnom Penh, meant delegates could witness the interactive training sessions on cassava production and insect prevention. Furthermore, a visit to a cassava processing factory highlighted the importance of forging linkages between the farmers, processing plants and prospective markets, most preferably China.

The delegation also met with UNDP Cambodia project team, representatives from MAFF and other Cambodian lines ministries (i.e., Ministry of Commerce) and the Economic and Commercial Counsellor’s Office of the Chinese Embassy in Phnom Penh (ECC). ECC voiced the importance of such trilateral initiatives in the development sector saying that "soft, grassroots-oriented" trilateral cooperation helps shape "hard" bilateral aid and business towards more poverty reducing outcomes.

Trilateral cooperation was viewed as helping Chinese bilateral assistance focus more on achieving "softer" poverty reduction objectives. MAFF held this project in high regard as it was the first time China was contributing to Cambodia’s cassava development through a trilateral cooperation mechanism. One key contribution was Chinese experts providing detailed information on Chinese market demand for cassava in an extensive needs assessment exercise.

As the project progresses towards completion, it is very important to systematically change the position of Cambodian farmers in cassava’s value chain, including cultivation, processing, marketing and exporting sectors, through deepening business links between Cambodia and China, and improving infrastructure and trade facilitation. This requires a more broad-based cooperation between Cambodia and China, i.e., Cambodian Ministry of Commerce (MOC), the Chinese Economic and Commercial Counsellor (ECC), aside from the existing partnership between MOFCOM and MAFF.

The monitoring mission highlighted the value-added of trilateral cooperation in bilateral aid, enabling initial discussions on how to formulate forthcoming trilateral cooperation initiatives. Based on success in Cambodia, in the next few years UNDP China and MOFCOM will launch new trilateral cooperation initiatives in other regions and countries, such as Malawi and Burundi. 

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