ISA Institutionalisation

Swisscontact through the ISA project has been working closely with key partners Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement (CIRAD), the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Sustainable Intensification at Kansas State University (SIIL/KSU) and the Centre of Excellence on Sustainable Agricultural Intensification and Nutrition (CE SAIN) – housed in Cambodia's Royal University of Agriculture (RUA) to support the initiatives to promote regenerative agriculture in Cambodia. The Government counterparts that the collaborating partners are working with are the Department of Agricultural Extension, Forestry and Fisheries (DEAFF), Department of Agriculture Engineering (DAENG), Department of Agriculture Land Resource Management (DALRM), Department of Rice Crop (DRC) and Department of Crop Sees (DCS).

ISA, along with its partners, visualizes six systems (as shown in the image below) that needs to work in cohesion to effectively facilitate the uptake and adoption of regenerative agriculture. Regenerative Agriculture describes farming practices that, among other benefits, reverse climate change by rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity – resulting in both carbon drawdown and improving the water cycle. These benefits results from the practice of minimum mechanical soil disturbance. (i.e., no tillage) through direct seed placement, implementing permanent soil organic cover with crop residues and/or cover crops and species diversification.

A systemic approach​ has been designed to bring in the six systems together to complement and augment the transition from conventional agricultural practices to more sustainable form of regenerative agriculture. ISA has been working to institutionalize part of the system since 2017. To realize the full system uptake, there is a need for other stakeholders to support the systems. Some of the institutionalization work that ISA, along with its partners, have been able to work on so far are given below.

The six systems include:

1. Research: Centre of Excellence
To promote R4D on agroecology practices, strengthen research and agroecology skills and improve R4D infrastructure and capacity with the objective to accelerate the transition to Regenerative Agriculture, the Bos Khnor Conservation Agriculture Research for Development Centre (CARDEC) will need to function as Centre of Excellence for Research for Development (R4D) in the agroecology. A 5-year strategic roadmap of the Bos Khnor Center has been finalized with the support of CIRAD and Swisscontact. The roadmap is the property of the Department of Land Resources Management (DALRM)
2. Skills/Human Resources
To develop skills and human resources in Regenerative Agriculture, the InGuider Model serves as an education and apprenticeship platform connecting higher education and private sectors in the field of Agroecology. The skilled human resources will then be able to provide technical knowledge to smallholder farmers. However, much work needs to be done. Regenerative Agriculture curriculum need to be designed. Courses need to be offered to students. There is huge investment that needs to be made in this area.
3. Government Coordination Mechanism
To strengthen coordination and support stakeholders to promote Regenerative Agriculture, the Conservation Agriculture and Sustainable Intensification Consortium (CASIC) functions as a national mechanism that collaborates and coordinates with a network of organizations that are implementing activities related to Conservation Agriculture (CA) in Cambodia such as marketing, research, policy and service delivery etc. by promoting CA practices, creating demand for CA machinery and implements, increase the diversification of crops, the accessibility of cover crops, and the participation of the private sector to meet the needs.
4. Extension
To provide technical information and know how to facilitate the adoption of regenerative agriculture, “MetKasekor’’ (meaning farmers’ friend in Khmer), an initiative of the Government of Cambodia, functions as an early adopter led extension service model, which focuses on ’opening the market’ for private sector investments on Sustainable Intensification via government agents and the private sector to smallholder farmers in Cambodia. MetKasekor is in the first year of its four years pilot. The pilot is supported by the Center of Excellence Sustainable Agricultural Intensification (CESAIN), Kansas State University, French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD) and Swisscontact.
5. Technologies and practices
To strengthen the commercialization of technologies and practices related to Regenerative Agriculture, multiple initiatives have been established. The initiatives include internal Swisscontact tools and approaches, and practices that aim to be institutionalized within the government systems.
6. Transition Financing
To address the challenges of incentivizing farmers on change of practice and ultimately facilitating the transition towards Regenerative Agriculture, Dei Meas (Golden Soil) functions as a financial mechanism to reward farmers for their investment into the production of ecosystem services and public goods. Therefore, within the framework of the project "Agroecology and Safe food System Transitions in South-East Asia" (ASSET, FFEM), SmartAgro, CIRAD and Swisscontact are currently working on a 3-year pilot of Dei Meas that will support the transition and bridge the financing gap by incentivizing smallholder farmers already in the first year of transition to foster the uptake of agroecological practices. Dei Meas will be under the steering of the Department of Agricultural Land Resources Management (DALRM).