Researcher Dairy: Integration of goats on black pepper farms in Cambodia
16.03.2023 The latest Researcher Diary features Agathe Kunz, a BFH-HAFL Agriculture master’s student who spent two months in Cambodia in 2022.
In Switzerland, if you need to find a goat farmer, it’s relatively easy; in Cambodia it’s not. Firstly, because there aren’t many goat farmers, but mainly because a list of their locations doesn’t exist.
So, looking for goat farmers became an important part of my master’s thesis data collection. Going to a village because someone saw a goat there one day and asking villagers if there is a goat farmer in the village takes time. One of the first things I found I needed when I started my interviews in Cambodia was flexibility. Each day was different and brought its own surprises.
A few years ago, the worldwide price for black pepper crashed. Many pepper farmers in Cambodia depend on this crop and their incomes decreased suddenly. That is why the Swiss NGO HEKS (Swiss Church Aid), in association with the local NGO CIRD (Cambodian Institute for Research and Rural Development), started a project to improve the livelihoods of pepper farmers.
One of the pilot projects required farmers to start raising goats on their farms. The goal was to give them a second income source, while also using the goats’ manure as fertiliser. Through this, the farmers could have the chance to be less dependent on the pepper market. The aim of my thesis was to assess the impact of this pilot project on environmental, social and economic aspects.
To achieve this objective, we conducted different interviews with three categories of farmers: farmers from the project who had pepper and goats, farmers outside the project with pepper and no goats, and farmers outside the project with goats and no pepper. Luckily, I was very well supported by a translator and the people from the NGOs.
Seeing the way farming was done in Cambodia gave me a different perspective to what I had previously known. Finding a goat farmer was more difficult than you would think. However, once found, they were very open to talking about their way of farming and their hopes for a better future. I was always welcome everywhere I went and this is an aspect of my research I will never forget.
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.