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Cycle 7 (2018 Deadline)

Rapid assessment of the pesticide network and its influence on the use of pesticides in Cambodian agriculture

PI: Vichet Sorn (, General Directorate of Agriculture
U.S. Partner: Buyung Hadi, International Rice Research Institute
Dates: November 2018 - October 2019

Project Overview

The increasing pesticide use in Cambodia is a widely acknowledged problem, with limited solutions. In the last decade, pesticides imported into Cambodia increased 285 times, implying a significant increase in pesticide use (CEDAC 2010, FAO 2012, Khun and Ngin 2014). The proposed research aims to understand the composition and characteristics of the network disseminating information and pesticide-based technologies. It also aims to bring out insights how this network functions to spread pesticides in Cambodia. Such insights about the pesticide network in Cambodia can be used to generate well-targeted interventions for pesticide policy, and inform extension efforts to ease the technological lock-in to support IPM.

The first objective of this project is to assess the pesticide network in Cambodia in terms of composition, function, and methods to bring information and products to Cambodian farmers. This will entail the identification of the stakeholders at the national, provincial, and community levels, as well as characterization of the linkages in the innovation system around pesticides and development of a better understanding of how they function to enable the spread of pesticides. The second objective is to examine the arrangements and practices in farming communities that maintain and encourage the practice of pesticide reliance. This will involve gaining a better understanding of community-level arrangements and practices that support the spread of information on pesticides and promote the accessibility of pesticide products and technologies to the farmers. To accomplish these objectives, the PI and his team will implement a stakeholder mapping of the pesticide network through representative stakeholders (e.g., legislative staff, national research agency officials, pesticide importers, distributors, retailers, farmers, local extension workers, NGO representatives, etc.). This will generate an overview of the network, its key players, and the important linkages around pesticides. Building from the data gathered, the team will interview the identified key stakeholders on the linkages, functions, and arrangements around pesticide importation and distribution (for both knowledge and products). In complement with those identified in the stakeholder map, they will include additional stakeholders to ensure there are representatives from national, provincial, and farming community levels. Lastly, the researchers will implement focus group discussions with community-level stakeholders (e.g. farmers, laborers, and women) in four Cambodian provinces on the practices and arrangements that enable pesticide access and use for farmers.

Although pointed out as a culprit, the pesticide network has up to now remained in a black box. Many ills are attributed to it, but not much is known, and seemingly nothing can be done. Understanding this network could have implications on the way alternative technologies such as integrated pest management (IPM) could be promoted. While there is pesticide legislation, the policy sector requires nuanced understanding of the pesticide network and how it actually functions, so that effective interventions can be implemented. Hence, this project should benefit not only research and extension for IPM but also policy towards curbing the misuse, overuse, and reliance on pesticides. Ultimately, such policies can help address the broader economic, health, and environmental problems faced by Cambodian farming communities.

Summary of Recent Activities

One highlight of the second quarter of 2019 for this project was the enrollment of MSc student Ms. Hak Chunneang in the Royal University of Agriculture. She has found a thesis supervisor who is willing to supervise her mixed-methods study involving fall armyworm (FAW) management. The study links with the PEER project in that it looks into the management options for potential pest outbreaks in Cambodia. Ms. Chunneang will be exploring the incidence of FAW outbreaks in Cambodia and options for controlling them in corn. She has engaged with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI, the USG supported partner institution for this PEER project) and the General Directorate of Agriculture (the PI’s institution) for this assessment and has joined the training on identification and management of FAW. Through the planned experiments, she can compare several management options from the private sector, as well as non-pesticide options. There are four treatments:
  • Treatment0: Control. Farmers will not spray or apply any intervention on the plots. If there are natural enemies, they can be observed in this plot.
  • Treatment1: Using chemical method (Emamectin), which based on survey results is most likely the current practice of farmers practice, but in the experiment technical instructions and recommendations will be followed exactly.
  • Treatment2: Using chemical pesticides based on recommended practice (Emamectin alternating with Cypermethrin)
  • Treatment3: Using biological methods endorsed by government agencies and partners implementing management for FAW, including the naturally occurring fungus Beauveria bassiana.
Also during this past quarter, the PI Mr. Sorn and his team have completed interviews of public sector stakeholders. Staff of the National Agricultural Laboratory (NAL) were interviewed to learn more about their roles and services in regulating the private sector. They are involved in the analysis pesticide formulations and assessment of pesticide residues. The formulation analysis is done as a key element of the quality control process for registering a chemical pesticide in Cambodia. If the product passes, meaning it contains the ingredients stated, the product can proceed for registration. The Department of Plant Protection, Sanitary, and Phyto-Sanitary (DPPSPS) is mandated to implement field trials to test product efficacy. The process begins when samples are received from the Department of Agricultural Legislation (DAL). Tying these together, the DAL makes the final decision for registration of companies importing and selling the pesticides following the results from NAL and DPPSPS.

In addition, the PEER team prepared documents to interview private sector stakeholders. Questionnaires were developed to use for interviewing pesticide importing companies and other stakeholders involved in the network. The researchers have randomly selected the companies from a list documented by DAL for 2018, and the interviews will be conducted in July and August 2019, including pesticide importers (in Phnom Penh), dealers (in Phnom Penh), retailers (in four provincial towns and villages), company extension staff, company sales staff, and company demonstration-trial farmers. After the PEER team completes the interviews with government regulatory agencies and private sector stakeholders, they will conduct a stakeholder mapping workshop. This workshop can facilitate sharing of insights regarding the current policies among representatives from varied stakeholder groups. At the same time, the plan to facilitate network mapping by these groups to understand the pesticide network at the national and provincial levels. In addition, beginning in July 2019, the PI and senior project staff will assist the MSc student in carrying out her experiment on FAW management in Battambang Province. A no-cost extension on the PEER project will likely be necessary to provide an additional six months to one year to complete all planned activities.

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