PHNOM PENH, May 23 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia launched on Tuesday a 61 million U.S. dollar project designed to increase incomes for smallholder farmers by expanding commercial agricultural markets and developing links between producers, buyers and service providers, officials said.
Dubbed "Accelerating Inclusive Markets for Smallholders (AIMS)," the six-year project aims to expand the agricultural sector by organizing and guiding farmers and small and medium businesses to intensify and diversify production and boost the market value of agricultural products by improving on the quality of production and processing.
The project will also develop and promote "value chains" by linking producers, buyers and service providers.
"The main goal of AIMS is to increase income of 75,000 smallholder farming households by 30 percent from agriculture by the end of the project in 2022," Commerce Minister Pan Sorasak said during the project's launching ceremony.
Cambodia had achieved outstanding economic growth of around 7.5 percent a year from 1994 to 2015, he said, adding that with this high growth, the poverty rate had also been reduced significantly from 47.8 percent in 2007 to about 13.5 percent in 2014.
"While Cambodia has achieved the Millennium Development Goal of halving poverty in 2009, the vast majority of families who escaped poverty were only able to do so by a small margin, thus around 4.5 million people are near-poor," the minister said.
According to Sorasak, 79 percent of the kingdom's 15 million people currently live in the rural areas and maintain their incomes and living through agriculture.
"Rural households are the poorest in the country," he said. "Although Cambodia had made great strive in alleviating poverty, we should understand that majority of them are still very susceptible to economic shock, which means that any dip in economic performance or unmitigated negative impact, will drop them back below the poverty line."
Commerce Ministry's Domestic Trade Department chief and project director Penn Sovicheat said the project would initially work in 15 provinces, targeting five flagship commodities, namely quality-assured rice, vegetables, backyard chicken, cassava, and raw silk.
He said the project would cost 61 million dollars including 36 million dollars lent from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the rest amount contributed by the Cambodian government and relevant private sector.
Under the project, a "value chain innovation fund" will be established together with rural banks to provide direct financial support to innovative business proposals by farmers, agricultural cooperatives, agribusinesses and service providers, he said.