A Change of Guard

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Monday, 24 December 2012

[Tasmania's] Cambodian Christmas connections

By Rose Grant 

At this time of year when people link up across the miles and generations, the Charlesworth family based around Devonport is celebrating Cambodian links.
This Christmas, Philip Charlesworth and his family are back for a holiday, after forging farming partnerships in Cambodia over the past seven years.
In 2005, Philip Charlesworth decided it was time to change from working on sustainable cane growing in Queensland, to sharing skills with people in the developing world.
Now he's based in Phnom Penh with US based non-government aid agency, International Development Enterprises, to meet a gap in the provision of agronomic advice and quality assured inputs like seed, fertiliser and agricultural chemicals.
"Cambodia is just coming out of the tumultuous periods back in the 1970's that we all know about with the Khmer Rouge etc," Philip Charlesworth said.
"They are just coming back out of being able to feed themselves, changing from a food security situation.
"Now the economy is gradually developing, poverty is gradually decreasing.
"So now they're able to look at some of the commercial aspects of agriculture in particular.
"Private investment is starting to come into Cambodia, but still the main investment in agriculture is international aid.
"We'll look at a particular market or value chain in the country, and look at where the major constraints are.
"So we might look at small businesses who need some extra capacity to fill a gap.
"We will invest in those businesses, help them get off the ground, up to the stage where the gap hopefully gets filled and we can step back and then put our attention into another issue.
"In Cambodia we have worked with market agents.
"Their job is to supply people in their community with quality assured agricultural inputs, but more importantly with the value-added advice which goes with those inputs.
"Our job with International Development Enterprises is to train them a lot in how to provide that information to the farmers, and work with them constantly to improve the profits from their farms.
"Over the last three years our program is now servicing something like 15,000 farmers.
"What we're really concentrating on now is up-scaling that, to get to 100,000 farmers.
"But still, how do we get to two million farmers, is the big question.
"So what we're doing is providing different models that the aid agencies can see, and they can in-turn fund that into the future."

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