Leapfrogging Agricultural Development: Cooperative Initiatives Among Cambodian Small Farmers to Handle Sustainability Constraints

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Abstract

Many small farmers across Cambodia are currently facing multidimensional sustainability challenges, such as the need to produce sufficient food for home consumption and income generation, while keeping pressures on land, labour and the environment at bay. This chapter illustrates these challenges through the socio-metabolic analysis of a non-industrialized rice farming village in Kampot Province. Apart from these challenges, the chapter also describes how some villagers have adopted a series of ‘low-capital’ and cooperative innovations and initiatives to handle some of these issues. At the same time, they have partly bypassed more conventional pathways such as green revolution techniques and the transition to fossil LP gas fuels. The adopted initiatives include agroecological techniques such as the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), to increase yields while reducing farming inputs; a small-scale biogas system for cooking and lighting; a community bank to address villagers’ financial needs; a community-operated paddy rice bank to manage transitory food shortages; and a rice mill association to increase farmers’ market performance. These developments can enhance the sustainability of resource use patterns, understood to be strongly embedded in local socio-economic dynamics. Diffusion of such cooperative, knowledge-based initiatives in the small-scale farming economy therefore bears the potential to leapfrog more conventional agricultural development pathways. Simultaneously, they can foment the creation of local agroecological knowledge, cascading resource uses and the closing of nutrient cycles, as well as economic democratization and a fairer participation of farmers in the food trade chain. Cooperative agricultural development may thus be vital for local sustainable food systems.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSocio-Metabolic Perspectives on the Sustainability of Local Food Systems
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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