Community Based Livestock Value Chain for Sustainable Livelihood Project (SLP)
The Community Based Livestock Value Chain for Sustainable Livelihood Project (SLP) was initiated by Muslim Aid Cambodia in July 2018 with an aim to promote inclusive economic and social growth through community-driven sustainable livestock value chain in the selected villages at Kampong Chhnang province of Cambodia. It is a unique approach which has been advancing knowledge and capacity of the smallholder farmers for livestock production through community driven livestock value chain at the village level for quality breed and feed management, and sale for increased income and family consumption of animal protein and milk. Through SLP MAC was able to make the smallholder farmers to change their traditional way of cattle raising which was devoid of proper healthcare interventions and fodder for the livestock. By enhancing the capacity of the farmers to access the market and best utilize rural finance and available extension services SLP contributed to advancing livestock production and sustainable livelihoods for its targeted beneficiaries.
One great achievement of the project is that it was able to foster community ownership to sustain livestock production, rearing and marketing system. The livestock production in Cambodia continued to struggle in the recent years. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, the number of cows decreased by 2.6 percent in 2010 to about 3.48 million animals, and the number of buffaloes fell 5 percent to about 702,000. Though this was blamed on various diseases but there are other factors responsible for it. Cattle feeds in Cambodia are currently based on natural grasses and rice straw. Providing locally available feeds has been a major challenge for farmers which required high labor inputs, especially during the dry and flooding seasons. Lack of feed was a critical factor for farmers to increase cattle numbers. As a result, farmers had less opportunity to participate in cattle-markets. In order to address this issue, the SLP project team supported farmers through trainings about better cattle raising with proper health care and improved feeding system. Majority of them are now able to control the diseases and provide an appropriate feed to the cattle. The smallholder livestock farmers learned about services provided by VAHW and District Animal Health Officer. They are now getting services such as vaccination, disease control, ways to tackle nutrient deficiency and parasite control. In addition, the farmers are also showing interest about injection of Artificial Insemination (AI or inject semen) to improve the breed rather than traditional bull-mating. They are also aware about the use of cattle manure for sanitary and biogas and for fertilizer. The supply of beef in the local market is gradually increasing and the people are consuming more meat than they used to before and are more conscious about protein need. One important achievement of the project is that it was able to increase awareness of the farmers and build their capacity to improve the feed of their cattle.
Traditionally, cattle raising was dependent on the feeds such as natural grass and rice straw. Farmers used to feed their cattle rice straw which was very low in nutritive quality. However, after the project intervention, the feed sellers have been identified for each village and many of our beneficiaries have started growing King grass, Neapear, Ginea, Molato and Simoun grass for the cattle feed. These grasses are providing good mineral for the cattle especially during the flooding and dry seasons. Besides, farmers are now aware of other fodder options for their cattle such as maize stems, sweet potato stems and sugar cane stems.
Most of the project beneficiaries have acquired skills on livestock rearing management and are now playing active role in livestock value chain. Moreover, MAC encouraged the involvement of relevant stakeholders in the project including local authorities, Village Animal Health Worker (VAHW) and NGO/CSO, so that they are well aware of the project’s purpose leading to integration of the project activities into annual investment program of commune/Sangkat. Also, the beneficiaries were encouraged to access other microfinance schemes for increasing their capital to improve the size of their respective herds and better livestock production and income. This community driven value chain model has been very successful in its first year of implementation and expected to help grow the local economy and thereby benefit the entire community to be sustainable within the village by matching the community supply and demands.
SLP was also able to improve the conditions of the households headed by women or elderly people. These households often lack financial capital and income as they rarely have access to and control over resources, means of production and overall livelihood opportunities for their subsistence as well as their dependents. They usually remain invisible in the traditional development programmes and social protection schemes, e.g. cash transfers. Even if they are included, those are too meagre to meet their subsistence needs and can hardly bring sustainable long-term gains. Similarly, persons with disabilities, indigenous people and religious minorities lack access to livelihood opportunities and resources. The project targeted these households with a view to improve their livelihoods. These households not only gained financial support from MAC but through rearing cows and selling milk they have been ensured of a sustainable livelihood for themselves and their dependents.
Following are few stories of our beneficiaries who were able to change the course of their lives with the help of SLP project:
Beginning of a new era for the cattle farmers in Kampong Chhnang
The cattle farmers of Prey Pis village of Chres Commune in Kampong Tralach District of Kampong Chhnang province often suffered from the shortage of fodder during the dry season. These farmers used to live on their small farmlands and by raising cattle which were not many in numbers. The local breed of cows were prone to various diseases and often died as these smallholder farmers didn’t know how to take care of them in a proper way. So instead of making profit out of their cattle they often incurred loss as they failed to get a good price while selling them in the local market. There were other challenges as ill. During the dry season they couldn’t manage enough fodder for their cows as they usually depended on the natural grass around their households. Another challenge for them was to receive loans as mainstream commercial banks would not lend them any money as they feared these farmers could not repay the loan. It was like a vicious cycle and there was no way out for them.
One of these farmers was Ly Sam from Prey Pis village. Like other smallholder farmers he struggled with his cattle which were the main source of income for him and his family. But instead of making profit, he suffered financially. There were lots of hardships and challenges. Managing fodder during summer was a major challenge. The feed wasn’t nutritious enough for his cows and they always remained small in size and suffered from various diseases. Being a poor farmer he couldn’t buy feed for his cattle or take extra care of them to keep them healthy and disease free. He relied on the traditional way of cattle raising and was always prepared for the worst – that his cattle might die anytime. However, this changed when he was introduced to the SLP programme.
When SLP was launched in 2018, the programme identified smallholder farmers like Ly Sam who used to raise livestock in the traditional way and had little or no means to ensure proper healthcare interventions and fodder for their livestock. They lack knowledge about the modern cattle rearing methods and usually never went to the local vet offices who could have helped them with various services. They also faced challenges if they wanted to increase the n umber of their cows as there were no financial support provided to them by the commercial banks. Against this backdrop Muslim Aid Cambodia reached out to them with a unique offer. MAC gave a grant to 160 families which included a cow and a bull for each of the families. Usually, these farmers didn’t have access to the commercial banking system who prefer to grant loans to established businesses rather than smallholder farmers. MAC took a different approach and provided them with financial assistance through interest free loans. Losan was given a cow and a bull and also provided with trainings about modern cattle raising technics. His major challenge was ensuring feed for his cattle during the dry seasons. MAC’s training helped him to learn about growing King grass which is a very nutritious fodder for the cattle. He was introduced to the local VAHW and District Animal Health services from where he started receiving services whenever required. After a year, things have changed for Ly Sam and his family members. He sold the bull to the local market and made a profit of 100 dollars. The cow is also pregnant and he is hoping to soon it would give birth and he could also make some profit out of it. He is also growing the King grass in his backyard and selling them as fodder to other farmers in his locality. He now knows how to take care of his cows and is able to provide health interventions for his cows. “I am now more confident about the future and know that my cows will not die of any diseases,” Ly Sam told us. Another challenge for farmers was to ensure proper mineral intakes for their cows and to address that SLP is providing mineral blocks to these farmers at a minimum cost. “SLP has changed my life for better and I am now thinking of further expanding my livestock numbers so that I can make more profit out of it,” he was talking about his plans for future and added that he is also sending his children to schools because of his financial solvency due to SLP project.
Math El is another farmer who used to solely depend on raising cattle and like Ly Sam, was also suffering as he lacked knowledge about modern cattle rearing method. For many years he suffered financially as his cows often became sick due to lack of proper maintenance and as he didn’t know where to go to receive help. “My cows often got sick and also I could tell that they were not getting enough feed and were very small in size. But there was hardly anything that I could do as I had to depend on natural grass and often my cows wouldn’t get enough and remained unfed and sick,” Math was talking about his experience.
It was when he came to know about SLP which, in addition to giving his family two cows, also helped him with training about modern cattle rearing methods. This resulted in a great change the way he was raising cattle. Not only he was able to ensure better feed as he was receiving mineral blocks and other nutritious fodder through MAC, he could also take better care of his cows and knew where to take them if they were sick. Soon after receiving the grant from MAC Math was able to sell the bull and with that profit he and his wife started selling food for workers at a nearby factory.
“It was always a hardship for me and my family but now I am earning enough money to support them,” Math was talking about how his life changed since 2018. He is also planning to expand the number of his cows since he knows how to take proper care of them and make profit.
Since the beginning of SLP, MAC also tried to generate other livelihood opportunities for the community members. A total of 17 butchers were identified who made profit through selling beef from the SLP project cows. The community members and the farmers attributed these overall income generation to the SLP project. More farmers are now expressing their interests in cattle raising in the project area following which the project decided to distribute 48 cattle (24 bulls + 24 cows)each month from September 2019 to February 2020.
The story of Sman Peou – a widow who defied all odds and became self-reliant
Sman Peou also lives in the same village. A sexagenarian women whose life is nothing but struggle. She became a widow at a very young age and had to raise four children by herself. Life wasn’t easy for her in this village. She had a very small piece of land where she grew crops and that wasn’t enough to support her family. “There were days we had no food in the house and it happened quite often,” Peou was talking about her ordeal and the plight of her children. “I couldn’t manage food for my children and I was working all the time without a break. My children were also working and I couldn’t stand to look at their hungry faces at the end of the day,” Peourecalled with a very sad tone. However, she managed to raise her children despite all the odds and three of them started earning for the family. That was when the second disaster of her life hit her. Her children went to work in cities and got engaged with their own lives. They also stopped sending her money on which she was depending. Suddenly her world collapsed as she could not figure out how to bear the expenses of herself and her youngest daughter.
It was when MuslimAid Cambodia reached out to her with the SLP propgramme. She received a grant from the programme to buy a bull and also got a cow. As she didn’t know how to raise the cattle she was given training by SLP which was done in collaboration with the local VAHW. Peou didn’t have enough land to get grass for her cows so the project helped her get proper fodder through a local distributer. She also received support on how to build cowshed for her cattle. She was introduced with the services provided by VAHW and to the district veterinary officer. Soon after receiving the bull she was able to sell it with a great margin and also her cow gave birth. SLP is now coaching her about the benefits of milking cows and to make a profit out of selling it. She now is thinking of hiring someone to help her with the cattle raising as she is planning to invest more on it.
“When I lost all hope and was struggling to earn a living to survive, MAC showed me the way by providing financial as well as technical knowledge to do it,” Sman mentioned gratefully. “Muslim Aid has done me a great favor by not only providing me a grant but also helping me to learn about modern cattle raising methods which resulted in ensuring livelihoods for myself and my family,” she added further.
When MAC started the SLP project it particularly targeted families which had women as household leaders and had elderly and disable members who are unable to take care of themselves. Like Peou, many families were thus provided support by SLP who were usually left out of the safety-net programmes by NGOs or other development agencies.
The story of Peou is just a testament to the fact that if women living in extreme poverty are given opportunity, they can also learn and take care of their families like men do. But for that development partners need to identify them and come forward with their assistance and alleviate poverty from Cambodia.
SLP helping to create business opportunities in the community
In the Kampong Tralach District of Kampong Chhnang province there are not too many feed sellers who sell quality fodder. The local farmers resort to traditional way of cattle rearing and depend mostly on the natural grass for their livestock. However, during the dry season they can’t get enough grass which ultimately affects their livestock production. But due to SLP interventions this scenario has been changing gradually. SLP trained the farmers about the nutrition requirements of their livestock and they are now aware that to ensure better price for their cows and keep them healthy, they need to feed them proper fodder. This change in knowledge and attitude has resulted in demand for proper feeds and some of the local community members took initiative to meet that demand. Seang Phalla is one among them.
Born in a poor family she didn’t have the chance to complete her school and had to start working from an early age as a garment worker to support her family. But it wasn’t easy for Phalla. The salary wasn’t great either. Working all day in an unhealthy condition often made her sick and forcing her to remain absent from work and being penalized for it. She hardly could avail a leave even when she was sick. Phalla was looking for an alternative income source that could get her enough money to support her family and also live a better life. It was then that she came to know about the SLP project and the growing demand for feed among the farmers in her locality. With the support of SLP she started a small shop to sell cow feed to these farmers. And soon her business started to grow. Now she is one of the leading feed sellers of her area selling 5-6 bags of feed every day.
While talking about her experience Phalla mentioned how the demand for feed has changed her life for better. “I never thought I would be able to get out of the life of a laborer which was slowly destroying my health but not because of SLP programme I am able to lead a better life and support my family,” she said. However, she also underscored the need for more support from both the government and development agencies so that women who are unable to receive loans from the commercial banks can start their own business. Muslim Aid is creating that opportunity for them, Phalla noted. She is also encouraging other women in her neighborhood to come forward and start their own businesses. “Muslim Aid has given me hope and courage, something that I never had before, women can also be in control of their lives and equally contribute to their families and the society as men do,” a confident Phalla proclaimed.
Since its inception in Cambodia, MAC is not only providing financial assistance to poor families but also providing them with means so that these poor families can be self-reliant and change their lives for better. MAC believes that it is important to address the root cause of poverty and work together to find a permanent solution. That is why SLP is trying to create livelihood opportunities for people living in poverty so that it can contribute to alleviating poverty in Cambodia.
SLP – a unique partnership between MAC and the Government of Cambodia
When SLP was initiated it was done with a view to create a partnership with the relevant stakeholders. After a year since the project started MAC found that SLP was able to draw the attention and interest of the farmers, local community and the relevant government authority and ministry which were manifested through their growing interest and participation in the project activities. The project was marked by a successful partnership with the relevant government authority i.e PDAFF, MAFF & VAHW. VAHW provided support through veterinary services to the project by engaging 9 vets. The VAHW also provided subsidy of 5 US Dollars for each AI. The presence of the Hon’ble Minister in the distribution programs and the partnership with the authority showed the appreciation and support of the government for SLP which resulted from MAC’s persistent advocacy and networking.
Leng Sophara, the District Officer of Animal Health and Production in KCN province was one of the few partners of SLP who provided support to the programme from the very beginning. He thinks that SLP has done a great job in promoting livestock rearing in the region and also trained the farmers well. “The number of cattle is increasing in Kampong Tralach and it is due to the fact that farmers are now finding it more profitable than before,” he said. Mr Sophara also observed that farmers now know about various diseases of their livestock and approaching his office for support. “This has led to an improvement of the health and breed of the cows,” he further added. He was particularly referring to how farmers now are taking care of their cattle and ensuring proper cowshed and feed as they understand the need for it.
However, He also identified some challenges. “People are still not using AI to improve the breed of their cattle and this needs to be addressed,” Mr Sophara said. He also said that more households should come forward to grow better grass and added that SLP could contribute to this further. Milking cows has always been a challenge as traditionally it is not practiced by Cambodians. He underscored that this should be highlighted and campaigns should be done to promote it among the farmers. “Milk is a good source of nutrition and can solve the malnutrition challenge in this country but for that we need to make people aware of it,” he concluded.
The positive view of Mr Leng Sophara is a testament of the fact that SLP had been able to build a great partnership with the relevant government departments. MAC always believes in the power of having partnership while implementing any project. Moreover, this partnership should not limit to government departments but needs to be formed with other development agencies and NGOs.
THE SLP TEAM MEMBERS