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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: Rica Joy Flor, International Rice Research Institute (former partner Buyung Hadi, until March 2020)
Dates: November 2018 - October 2020

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

During the last quarter of 2019, PI Vichet Sorn and his team followed up on their experiment on fall army worm, making many trips to do field checks on crop damage and score the levels of infestation found. In late October, Dr. Kim Eang Tho, the supervisor of project MSc student Miss Hak Chhunneang, took part in one of the field visits and was very interested to observe the effects of each treatment being tested for fall army worm management. He recommended that the experiment be replicated in other provinces to make the study more rigorous and that Miss Chhunneang should supervise another student in carrying it out. The initial experiment was completed at the end of December 2019 when the team harvested 50 corn plants per test plot. After dehusking, weighing, and threshing, the corn kernels were dried and comparisons were then made to see which of the test treatments produced the highest yield.

During the first quarter of 2020, the team shared their initial results with the Plant Protection Department of the General Directorate of Agriculture, which is in charge of planning for fall army worm work in Cambodia. They also prepared for a survey of local-level stakeholders. They also developed and tested questionnaires for a survey of local-level stakeholders following the networks discussed by company representatives involved. The implementation of this survey will be slower because of the COVID-19 situation, which makes travel to the provinces difficult.

In the meantime, by mid-April 2020 the team had completed 70 percent of their private sector survey, including a good mix of big and small companies, as well as those selling only pesticides and those that also sell other products such as bio-control. The team encountered some difficulties in getting interviews, as some of the companies refused or said they did not have time. In the second quarter of 2020, the researchers will continue currently trying to get companies to agree to phone or online interviews to enable continuation of the survey during the current coronavirus outbreak. In addition, they will repeat their field experiment, analyze their data, and prepare reports and papers. Miss Chhunneang is also working on completing her MSc thesis. She has enough data to complete her project, it will be useful to replicate the experiment to ensure the study is more rigorous and suitable for scientific publication. This will be done in collaboration with the Royal University of Agriculture and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the early wet season, at one of the university’s experiment stations. This experiment is already being coordinated to start as soon as the corn planting season commences. Other activities planned include completing the private sector survey, conducting a stakeholder workshop, and finishing a report on results after the second experimental round is complete. As for broader potential impacts, the U.S. partners on this project have been in touch with Grow Asia, a program under the auspices of the World Economic Forum. Grow Asia has been asked by the ASEAN Agriculture Ministers to develop regional cooperation to address the problem of fall army worm. Key insights from the project, particularly on the performance of tested company recommendations, were shared with the Grow Asia fall army worm group.

Because original U.S. Government-supported partner Dr. Buyung Hadi left IRRI in March 2020 to take up a new position with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome, co-partner Dr. Rica Joy Flor of IRRI has now taken the role as lead partner working with the PI and his team.

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