If you take a drive towards the northern edge of the Cardamom Mountains, through the town of Pailin, Cambodia, you might see farmers tending to their cassava fields.
The farms, vast blankets of moss green, stretch for miles towards the foothills, creating a stunning vista. But about a decade ago, farmers in Pailin were struggling. Cassava – the second largest crop in terms of income, employment, and exports – was not doing well.
In some cases, yields were low, and farmers had to strive hard to make ends meet. They lacked technical expertise on how best to replace nutrients, in soil depleted by the cassava crop. They also needed support to package and market cassava and its byproducts and were seeking insights to increase exports.
In 2011, to boost sustainable cassava production, UNDP, along with China’s Ministry of Commerce and Cambodia’s Ministry of Agriculture, developed a project, to help small producers and exporters of cassava. The aim was to improve farm productivity, increase revenues and exports, and create jobs in the cassava sector.
The project helped Cambodian farmers to draw on China’s vast experience in cassava cultivation, to address challenges in production and marketing, and ultimately to fend off poverty.
As a bridge between Cambodia and China, this South-South and Trilateral Cooperation project has improved cassava productivity, conserved soil quality, and paved the way for direct exports of processed cassava to China. In pilot sites, productivity rose by up to 70 percent. And now, the private sector is stepping in.
Last year, UNDP and Green Leader Holdings, a Hong Kong-based industrial agriculture firm, signed a cost sharing agreement to further boost cassava exports – a US $150 million commitment, for 10 starch making factories, in Cambodia.
This story of success and continual growth reflects the influence and significance of creating connections and the true spirit of South-South and Triangular Cooperation. It signifies that to tackle development’s toughest challenges we must work together, and share resources, expertise, and knowledge.
The Cambodia-China story and other stories in this report exemplify how cooperation and collaboration are bringing about dramatic transformations, in countries across the region and beyond. I firmly believe such cooperation is critically important for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, to bring prosperity to all people, and to protect our planet.
For these and other inspiring stories of exchanges of experience, technology and ideas between countries in the global South, check out our latest report: Creating Connections: South-South and Triangular Cooperation in Asia and the Pacific.