Due to a lack of investment in skills training and upgrading, rural families in Cambodia have trouble depending on agricultural activities to make a decent living. Many young Cambodians reject farming as a viable career and are rapidly migrating to cities to take up high-risk factory jobs that require little skill and earn low pay.
Green Shoots Foundation believes that investing in agricultural skills and community leadership can mitigate the negative effects of the rural exodus and show young people that agricultural businesses and a rural economy can be a viable option for their livelihoods.
Green Shoots recently received funding from The HEAD Foundation to expand its project ‘Agricultural Skills for Public Schools,’ or ‘ASPUS.’ This project aims to improve agriculture skills of students by training teachers to cultivate vegetable gardens with students, and encouraging the students to sell these vegetables for additional pocket money.
Green Shoots believes that by increasing teacher and student involvement in agriculture, children from rural areas will see the value of agriculture as a dependable source for income. In particular, it trains teachers and students in environmentally sound agricultural practices to reduce reliance on chemical fertilizer and non-organic pesticides.
The project targets to benefit 8,900 students in total, who will be able to pass on the knowledge to their families. When we visited Green Shoots in March, the lower-secondary students excitedly showed us their gardens. While telling us about their harvests, some naturally swooped and started adeptly plucking whenever they saw something that should not be there. We learned that some students had indeed been bringing their knowledge home to their families. They harvest the vegetables for their own consumption and also to sell. Morning glory, eggplants, green chilies, tomatoes, mint, winter melons – these are just some of what Green Shoots helps students to grow.
Investing in agricultural skills and community leadership can mitigate the negative effects of the rural exodus and show young people that agricultural businesses and a rural economy can be a viable option for their livelihoods
The students are being trained in an education centre, or one of 42 schools (35 primary schools, six secondary schools and one high school) in Odar Meanchey, a rural province in Northwest Cambodia 40 kilometres from the border with Thailand. These schools are all public schools.
The expected impact of ASPUS can be divided in three main areas:
- Social Development through knowledge sharing, leadership and skills development, and community capacity-building;
- Environmental Sustainability through sustainable horticulture practices, improved soil and water management techniques, and climate change adaptability of farmers;
- Economic Development through increased income from the selling of harvest from school and family gardens, and increased consumption of home-grown harvests.
THF chose to support this project because of its proven track record, its scalability and its built-in education and leadership elements. We see its achievement in rural Cambodia as a role model for similar initiatives in Southeast Asia. Green Shoots is also present in the Philippines, Myanmar, Vietnam, and Kyrgyzstan.