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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

By the time this project completed its first year in October 2019, the PI and his team had completed several key activities laying the groundwork for successful completion of their efforts. With facilitation by USG-supported partner Dr. Buyung Hadi of IRRI, training was provided for GDA staff and potential students on social science research methods and the interview instrument was created. The researchers also completed their policy review on Cambodian laws and other regulations for the import, trade, and sale of pesticides. In the process, they were in contact with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries, as well as the Department of Agricultural Legislation, thanks to which they obtained the list of relevant registered companies, from which they will take a sample for interviews. In the spring and summer of 2019, the team completed initial mapping of stakeholders at the village level and conducted initial interviews to explore the dynamics and interactions among pesticide industry stakeholders. By the fall, MSc student Ms. Hak Chunneang had completed two semesters of postgraduate studies at the Royal University of Agriculture (RUA), with her thesis supervisors being Dr. Hadi and Dr. Kim Eang Tho, deputy director of the RUA Division of Research and Extension. Chunneang’s thesis study fits with the PEER project in that it looks at management options when a pest outbreak is happening in Cambodia, particularly the responses and recommendations from the pesticide industry. She will be doing an experiment on the incidence of fall army worm outbreak in Cambodia and the management options available for such an outbreak on corn. The student engaged with IRRI (USG supported partner for this PEER project) and GDA in the assessment of the outbreak and joined the training on identification and management of FAW. The experiment, which involves testing of different types of pest treatments and a control group, commenced on August 30, 2019, in Ratanakmonduol District, Battambang Province. Data collection is ongoing, and the harvest will be gathered during the second week of December 2019.

Despite some scheduling delays, the team has completed interviewing public sector stakeholders, including the National Agricultural Laboratory (NAL), which is involved in the analysis of pesticide formulations and assessment of pesticide residues. Other interviews were conducted with the Department of Plant Protection, Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary (DPPSPS), which is mandated to implement field trials to test pesticide efficacy, and the Department of Agricultural Legislation, which provides the samples for testing and later makes the final decision for registration of companies importing and selling the pesticides following the results from NAL and DPPSPS. The team has also commenced its survey of pesticide companies (importers) and other stakeholders involved in the pesticide network. They randomly selected 36 of the 60 companies on the list documented by DAL for 2018, and as of late October 2019, 30% of the interviews had been completed.

A few challenges have arisen during the process, due both to weather-related delays affecting the field experiment and the pressure of other commitments at the pesticide companies making it challenging to schedule interviews with them. Recruitment of additional personnel within GDA to undertake graduate studies as part of the project was also difficult, partly because of the topic being in the social science field and partly because of staff time constraints. Two staff members who enrolled in a climate change Master’s program at the Royal University of Phnom Penh could not pursue their studies due to time and work-related priorities.

Moving forward in late 2019 and into 2020 under a one-year no-cost extension, the PI and his group will complete their interviews of pesticide importing companies and other pesticide network. They also plan to conduct a national workshop with the involved stakeholders to share the findings and get feedback for the policy brief they plan to synthesize and submit to MAFF. In addition, they will finalize an experimental report on fall armyworm management and support the Master’s student for her thesis defense. At least one paper is also expected to be submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

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