Researcher Diaries: adoption of cover crops in mango and longan orchards in Cambodia
09.12.2022 The latest Researcher Diary features Sofia Marcon, a BFH-HAFL bachelor’s student in International Agriculture.
Battambang, 5 July 2022, 06:50. My translator Rosa has just arrived to pick me up on her motorbike to go to Bourn Chour village, Battambang Province, Northwestern Cambodia, to do three interviews. We need almost an hour to reach the farmers’ houses. The first stop is at a market where we buy three “Krama” as gifts. The “Krama” is a typical Khmer scarf that local people use to protect their heads from the sun, as a cloth to wipe away their sweat, and in many other ways.
My bachelor thesis research focuses on identifying the reasons why some mango and longan farmers have adopted conservation agriculture (CA) techniques, especially cover crops, and why others are still sceptical about these practices. As part of these farmer interviews, I also look to identify farmer recommendations on how the use of cover crops can be expanded.
The thesis is part of a project called ISA, Innovation for Sustainable Agriculture, implemented by Swisscontact, which aims to increase agricultural productivity in a sustainable way. The project team, which includes Swisscontact staff and a number of partners including the Ministry of Agriculture, the Conservation Agriculture Service Centre (CASC) and Cirad, focuses on raising awareness and teaching local farmers the fundamentals of conservation agriculture (no-till, cover crop use and crop rotation).
Benefits of cover crops
After Rosa and I arrive in Bourn Chour village, we search for the first farmer’s house. We ask some villagers for directions and finally find it. We carry out a one-hour interview and afterwards ask the farmer to show us his longan orchard. Like many other farmers in the area, he had to cut down all of his mango trees because of their low demand and continuously falling market prices. The farmer explains to us that he started growing cover crops because he had weed problems; since then, he has stopped using herbicides and is very satisfied. We give him one of the “Kramas” to thank him for his time and take a picture with him. In exchange, he gives us a bag full of longan.
We ride to the next farmer. This time we interview a conventional farmer who does not grow cover crops. He has never heard about cover crops and their use and is interested to know more. We explain the benefits of cover crops and he seems open to the idea because he has problems with weeds and soil erosion. Before we leave, the farmer sees our bag of longan and insists on giving us some more from his farm.
After our lunch break, we meet our third farmer who used to grow cover crops but stopped because they died out. She told us that she will grow them again during the rainy season. Like the first two farmers, she does not let us leave without taking some longan.
Around 15:00, Rosa and I ride back to Battambang town with two full bags of longan and a lot of interesting information.
The Researcher Diaries series provides photo snapshots and testimonials from researchers and students participating in BFH-HAFL and partner projects in the field all over the world.