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Agroecology for better food growing systems

Using Agroecology and reviving forgotten foods to improve farming systems- field and diet diversity

Photo of Muneezay Jaffery
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Lead Applicant Organization Name

Green Shoots Foundation

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small NGO (under 50 employees)

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

To achieve this vision we are working with: - local government - grassroots organisations

Website of Legally Registered Entity

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 1-3 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?


Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

United Kingdom

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Working in Samrong Town, Oddar Meanchey Province (4,873 KM^2) in the North West of Cambodia, population density 32 people/ KM^2

What country is your selected Place located in?


Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

Green Shoots Foundation has been working in this part of Cambodia since 2013. Our motivations to work here were instigated by our French partners, Enfants du Mekong who have been in the area for the past 60 years and noticed dwindling efforts and opportunities for highschool students.

The drop out rate between secondary school and high school is nearly 52%, with many students moving out of the rural province to urban areas or going across the border to work in factories. They acquire high-risk jobs, some are illegal workers due to the rigamarole of paperwork. The longterm impact of this is gradual disinterest in rural economies. We feel, given the location of this town (just 40Km from the Thai border) there is a risk in it becoming a ghost border town. There is minimal investment from the government towards infrastructure for irrigation, processing of raw materials and market linkages. Over the last decade we have noticed government investment has primarily been towards roads connecting to and from the border. In terms of food and agriculture specifcally 300-400 tonnes of fruit and vegetables are imported in on an annual basis. Our vision for food system 2050 is to empower and regenerate the local agri-economy via skills and shifting the focus on what is grown and consumed. 

In 2012 we launched a pilot project with Enfants du Mekong to ascertain appetite of youth for agriculture, sustainable farming training and the revamping of rural livelihoods. On the back of this pilot project we launched our Agriculture Skills in Public Schools project. Which involved 42 Government run schools to have vegetable gardens/ trained teachers to deliver a curriculum designed around environmental education and nature.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

 Cambodia is  predominantly a Buddhist country with stark inequality and differences between urban and rural areas. 80% of the country lives in rural areas and engaging in agriculture. The capital city such as Phnom Penh or tourist hotspots, such as Siem Reap, represent a small proportion of Cambodia's affluent society and tourism investments. For many rural dwellers they represent opportunities and. Cities and towns are connected via vast stretches of flat land and rice paddies. The concept of peri-urban is less apparent in Cambodia, mostly due to the size of cities. 

Our work has been focused on Samraong Town and its nearby villages in the last six years. More recently we have established our own training space over 0.5 ha (2.1 acres) and this space embodies our food vision for 2050.

Samraong (meaning thick jungle) is a provincial town built around a lake and, like most of Cambodia, most of the families are agriculture households. A families have branched out into running restaurants, construction companies or small shops. nearly 60% of the population lives in poverty and is spread out across villages in five districts. The province is a relatively newly carved out administrative area (in 1999) in a bid towards restoration and peace after the war. It was one the last remaining strongholds of the Khmer Rouge, with many hiding in the vast jungles of the province. Since then, the province, as most of Cambodia, has been subject to deforestation and environmental degradation. Swatches of forest have been cleared to make way for rice paddies and cassava plantations and logging- the two most dominant cash crops in the country. However, most rice grown in the province is rain-fed (i.e. one harvest a year). Other crops in the area are sugar plantations (managed by Thai or Chinese investments) 

Over the years we have arranged focus groups and discussions, particularly with secondary school students, to help understand their hopes and aspirations. “I want to pursue a career in agriculture as there is a lack of skill and human resources. Farmers are using too much chemicals, which is leading to illness. What they need is technical support and guidance”

more on this can be found here:

By developing an interest in permaculture and agroecology, we are trying to revive forgotten foods from the war. There is a wealth of knowledge around foraging and local ingredients which we feel should be appreciated more and included in the food vision for 2050.

What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)


What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?


Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

The current challenges faced within the food system in Cambodia, particularly this part are:

- Impacts of climate change and little awareness or skills on how to combat

- Poor quality seeds (mostly all are hybrid/ GMO)

-  Farmers stuck in debt and loan cycles

- Heavy use of chemicals and pesticides

- Lack of diversification in crops 

- Availability of information, new research

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

Our vision focuses on updating skills for farmers, improving seed stocks and being a conduit to connect them to markets. 

In 2017 we were provided with a plot of land by the local government to establish a training centre. We see this space as the launchpad for our vision as:

1- It practices what we preach. I.e. made using 100% eco building techniques 

2- It has a large hall for  training sessions, workshops. The space works as a demonstration site and 

3 - We aim to develop a seed bank (the first of its kind in Cambodia) where we can save/ stock and swap seed with locals. We have already begun saving seeds and conducting germination experiments.

4- By building relationships with like-minded organisations we can join forces for a collective effort for a unanimous vision of better food, environment and health. 

5- Showcases numerous agriculture enterprises that farmers and youth can learn from. We pay close attention towards showcasing examples in terms of: financial inputs/ outputs, environmental benefits and labour intensiveness.

For example: The USD 100 home garden: This plot emulates a typical home garden, mixing flower beds with easy to grow vegetables and ones that tend to have a shorter shelf-life. For reasons of demonstration, we call it the USD 100 (GBP 75) home garden, aiming to showcase what can be achieved with this amount of funds available and how quickly they can be recovered. The first harvest will include: water spinach, cabbage, lettuce, leeks, cucumbers and herbs used in day-to-day cooking.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

Our high level vision of change:

1- behaviour change.

One of the key changes we want to bring about is the reimagining of family farms as an agribusiness. We want the people that get involved with our project to visualise their small plots of land as thriving income generators/ social enterprises. By focusing on regenerative practices for agriculture techniques we aim to bring about more community cohesion and environmental stewardship from a younger age.

2- value chain change

In the long term, the agritech model can also be taken and applied in other community based programs around the country. By providing a base for rural communities to tap into, get learning but also a space for trading and connecting with markets is a huge incentive to change modes of production. We have a curriculum based on agroecology training and best practices, which can be adapted to other locations.

A great way to demonstrate this is via the forest garden on our agri-tech centre in Cambodia. 7% of forest cover has been lost in the last decade so we decided to focus our attention to convert this patch into a Cambodian Forest Garden.

Due to the Khmer Rouge atrocities, there has been a wipe out of traditional recipes and a Thaification of food, especially in the north. So we decided to theme the space according to forests and Khmer cuisine. It includes many roots (ginger, glang galang, turmeric, jimica, fingerroot), herbs as cover crop and leafy greens. Other inclusions are bamboo, sugarcane; both that grow quickly and can provide a canopy. We can also include bees for honey.

This demonstrates our vision perfectly- we will have plenty of “lost” foods along with educational element of “forest management”. A large proportion of rural populations rely on non-timber forest products (NTFP) however there is little balanced management of these spaces. A very important step in here is to involve our students and neighbours in sharing their day-to-day diets and analyse what the forgotten foods are.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

Our full vision involves:

- Participatory work with local community on food systems that work for them

- Small scale production

- Focus on local/ native plants and foods

- Diversity on the farm

- Diversity in diet

- Experimentation on farms

- Co-learning and exchange of information (via traditional methods and use of technology)

- Assurance to farmers and growers that their is connectivity to market.

-  Monitoring and evaluation protocol to asses how activities are running and how to improve

- Capability to market this vision and pilot it around the world

In order for this system to work, we need these activities to take place in tandem. With the final being of most value in order to bring about a collective, long term vision. 

Our current monitoring and evaluation protocol involves monthly data collection on individual project activities and the agritech centre space as a whole. On a quarterly basis we invite our local community to discuss progress. This participatory way of working is essential to the full vision. 

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

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