Phnom Penh, Cambodia
October 1, 2014
A STEP FORWARD
Agricultural Biodiversity. Food Security. Farmers’ Rights. Seed Systems. Policies.
These were the main topics on which discussions revolved around in the recently concluded “National Forum on Seeds: Diversity for Food Security” held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia last September 30, 2014. The forum was organized and facilitated by SEARICE and the General Directorate for Agriculture (GDA) and was participated in by representatives from the government, research institutions, non-government organizations (NGOs), and farming communities from Cambodia.
The one-day forum, attended and participated in by various stakeholders in Cambodia, provided the opportunity to tackle relevant issues as well as current options and policy directions on agriculture, farmers’ rights and the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources (PGR). Citing its successful interventions in Vietnam, Thailand, Bhutan, Lao PDR and the Philippines, SEARICE underscored the viability of conserving and developing PGR by employing participatory plant breeding among farmers and their communities using the Farmer Field School or FFS approach; debunking the argument that farmers cannot do plant breeding. SEARICE explained that such an approach and strategy emphasize and recognize the critical role of farmers not only in sustaining traditional and local seed varieties but more so in responding to climate change, food insecurity and environmental degradation issues among others.
For policy directions, SEARICE emphasized the need to ensure that safety nets for farmers and the country’s PGR are in place as countries like Cambodia integrate further into the global community through international agreements, protocols and organizations. Stressed further was the need for national and local policies to be inclusive rather than alienating for farmers to guarantee that their rights are respected and recognized and that they primarily benefit from such policies.
The openness shown during the forum on recommendations, ideas and concepts by the Cambodian Government through the General Directorate for Agriculture or GDA, was a positive sign towards the realization of the conservation and sustainable use of PGR as well as in ensuring the protection and recognition of farmers’ rights.
The forum was formally closed with the conclusion that as far as the matters discussed were concerned, Cambodia still has a long way to go but nonetheless activities such as this provide a step forward towards a positive direction.