QSA’s involvement with Cambodia goes back to the 1970s. it has ranged from small-scale interventions providing minor infrastructure, to larger joint projects with the American Friends service Committee (AFSC) such as repairing and extending water services in Kampong Cham city, through to the biggest undertaking ever handled by QSA, initially called Kampuchean English Language Training, later changed to Cambodian English Language Training. This ran from 1986 to 1993 before being handed over to a consortium by the University of Canberra.

Today QSA’s involvement is via project partners of the Department of Women’s Affairs in Pursat and Kampong Thom Provinces; Khmer Community Development working in Kandal Province; and the Production and Marketing Services Association and the Bunran Hun Sen Development Centre both in Pursat Province.

Department of Women’s Affairs Provincial office, Kampong Thom, funded by QSA and DFAT, project expenditure $35,067  
Project title ‘Enhanced food and water security for three rural communities’.

Project result

As a consequence of community consultations, this project partner works with communities within the province to assist them in achieving greater food and water security. During the past year 51 women and 9 men have been trained in permaculture techniques, and have each established their own food gardens, growing an extensive range of food crops to provide nutritional variety as well as reducing the risk of the spread of pests and diseases possibly resulting from monoculture. From the sale of surplus produce, 80% of the project participants have acknowledged an improvement in their living conditions, with an increase in income of at least US$50 per month, as well as more variety and quantity of meals per day. There is an opportunity to make more use of those trained to become mentors for the new trainees, and for their food gardens to become demonstration sites.  Of the participants not performing as well as the others, many of them have employment elsewhere and therefore have reduced time available to work in their food gardens, but are still able to provide for their families.

In addition, 45 families have benefitted from twelve protected well shafts with removable covers providing a secure water supply for drinking water and to help irrigate their crops. The project participants have also received training in basic health and hygiene, and ways of taking care of water management. The positioning of protected water well shafts is important to ensure access to sufficient water, and if the site can be planned for the corner of the land, access can be made easily for neighbours to also access the water, giving more families the benefit

Monitoring of the achievements from the previous project year has indicated that 30 of the participants required additional training and support to achieve their full potential, and this support has been provided, enabling them to increase the quantity of produce grown.

One of the main changes, as reported by the village chiefs involved in the project to the QSA monitor, is the change in the attitude and demeanour of the participants – they have more confidence, are healthier due to the improved intake of fresh vegetables and are more cooperative and supportive of each other instead of being competitive all of the time.


Meeting of provincial and District staff, Department of Women’s Affairs office, Kampong Thom.
Photo credits - DWA

Project challenges

Change to climate, in particular changes to rainfall patterns and predictability, has a particular impact on agricultural activities. Widespread flooding during the wet season makes it difficult for the project partner staff to access remote rural communities, as well as destroying seedlings and crops if the flooding is prolonged. However during a monitoring visit in the dry season, the impact of access to water on the crops being grown is particularly evident. This is also the time of year when many families have used up their rice crop from last season and are having to purchase supplies. Previously they would also be purchasing vegetables so growing their own is a reduction of expenses for them, provided they have access to some water to hand irrigate the crops.

Department of Women’s Affairs provincial office, Pursat Province
Funded by QSA and DFAT, project expenditure $66,490
Project title ‘Poverty alleviation in Pursat Province’.

Project result

Training in permaculture style food gardens was given to 137 women and 13 men, encouraging them to establish their own food gardens for greater food security. All of them have been able to grow a range of vegetables to feed their families and have surplus produce to sell with some averaging an additional US$125 per month income from this. There is a great value in arranging for the new permaculture trainees to meet previous ones who have successfully applied the methods to their own food gardens, to provide modification and mentoring opportunities for the new trainees.

50 farmers were given training in work health and safety, quite a new concept for them, as a means  to help  to reduce the number of serious accidents which come from a lack of awareness of these dangers. Topics covered addressed safe methods of storing chemicals and operating machinery such as rice mills, and how to protect the home from storms and floods. Project partner staff also gave a series of community workshops about basic health and hygiene.

Micro credit facilities have been made available through the project, and 25 people have taken this up to expand their food gardens to include cash cropping, such as cassava, sugar cane and additional fruit trees.

Photo credit - Department of Women’s Affairs, Pursat

60 women elected village leaders were given training to assist them become better advocates for the community, particularly the women. These leaders then shared this knowledge with 2032 women and 844 men in a series of community workshops.

This project was one of two to be evaluated during this year, giving the staff valuable instruction in evaluation methods and formulation of survey questions. The analysis of the findings has provided a range of issues for discussion during the year and will result in modifications to the design of future projects. Lessons from the evaluation are still being discussed, and in particular regarding the way micro credit facilities are being offered.  (See details later in this section).

Project challenges

Not all of the women elected as village leaders operating in a voluntary capacity are motivated to carry out this work, possibly due to a lack of general education, but also due to an economic need to secure employment to support their families. This training course helped to raise their awareness of what the role entails, and to increase their motivation.

No government department is checking for chemical content in food which can result from the overuse of chemical pesticides and fertilisers; and additional training for the farmers will result in more careful applications of these chemicals.

For farmers wishing to grow their crops organically and so gain higher prices for their produce, there is little understanding of the need for a buffer zone between organic and inorganic farms, which is often only a narrow strip of land between fields to walk on. This needs more understanding for greater effectiveness, with possible buffer crops or grouping of organic and inorganic farming methods. This project partner is providing training to assist farmers cope with long term flooding as this can destroy crops, livestock and homes. However short term minor flooding is viewed as beneficial as it is responsible for widely distributing rich alluvial silt over the crop fields. As a result many measures to combat flooding are not taken up, particularly as long term flooding is an irregular feature and minor flooding is more frequent and considered an advantage. 

Production and Marketing Services Association, and the Bunrany Hun Sen Development Centre, Pursat. Funded by QSA and DFAT, project expenditure $86,412
Project title ‘Poverty alleviation and development of business capacity in Pursat Province.’

Project results

For the vocational training centre in Pursat, the Bunrany Hun Sen Development Centre, this project year has been one of intensive change. Concern had been expressed about the falling numbers of students wanting to be trained in weaving grass and cane mats; basket weaving; weaving silk and cotton scarves; sewing, tailoring and making handicrafts. During the year a total of 113 women and 1 man were trained in these skills and a further 26 women and 11 men received training in a variety of computer skills. This is a significant reduction of numbers compared to previous years, and reflects the impact of other employment options locally, in particular a clothing factory employing thousands of young people, especially women. An Australian business management consultant, Jane Drexler, was engaged to visit the centre to hold discussions with the staff and students, and to assess the situation. The advice given was that changing the Centre from one with a training focus to one of production could bring greater sustainability to the centre. Towards the end of this project year the transition was begun.

The Production and Marketing Services Association is a newly created local NGO that relates to the centre and works directly with the rural communities, providing training in handicraft skills such as basket weaving and permaculture. Increasingly it is helping small community groups become cooperatives which gives them greater bargaining power to get good prices for their produce, and cheaper bulk purchases of raw materials. Community groups coming for training and assistance are frequently doing so at the suggestion of the provincial Department of Agriculture office which indicates the level of support for their work and is also in accord with current government direction and policies.

Photo credit Bunray Hunsen Development Centre and Production & Marketing Services Association

Project challenges

To bring about a change of focus for an organisation is quite a challenge, which requires the full support of current staff, and the opportunity to hire new staff with the requisite skills. In addition there has been a reconsideration of the range of items produced, with new styles being introduced to a wider market. The quality of the items produced needs to be of a high and consistent standard, and there is a need for generating a variety of styles and colours for continued customer satisfaction and increased market share.

Khmer Community Development, working with the community of Prek Chrey in Kandal Province. Funded by QSA and DFAT, project expenditure $85,944
Project title ‘Food security and income generation.’

Project results

Support by QSA and DFAT for the work of this project partner is for a separate community empowerment and poverty alleviation component of a larger program designed to bring about inter-racial harmony to the community of Prek Chrey close to the border with Vietnam. Members are achieving greater family income and financial stability through KCD’s establishment and continued support of community based committees managing a rice bank, a cow bank and three savings banks. The number of families associated with the cow bank has increased from five in 2009 when it was established to 27 currently. The savings banks had 70 members in 2014, and now have 185 members and through these banks, 119 people (84 women, 35 men) have successfully applied for micro credit loans to establish small scale local businesses. A rice bank of separately maintained organic and inorganic rice stocks enables people to borrow and repay rice, from which 32 families took up that option this year, and eight impoverished families were given supplies of rice to help them survive until their own harvests were secure. During the past year this project was one of two where an evaluation was undertaken in a range of topics, including the value placed on micro credit options and the other forms of banking in the community, and the changes that have been able to be created for the participants and their families by being involved in the project. (This is detailed in this annual report.)  

Photo credit – Khmer Community Development

Training in group management skills and numeracy skills assist in further capacity building, and along with awareness-raising in gender issues, ways of reducing domestic violence and violence against women and girls, greater community cohesion is being achieved.

This project has also provided training in organic agricultural methods which is slowly gaining support, and currently 21 farmers have established organic home food gardens as demonstration sites to generate added interest and encourage others. Markets for organic produce locally, and at a specialised shop in Phnom Penh are generating a good income for the farmers, which also adds further encouragement.

Project challenges

Training farmers to grow crops organically has identified a difficulty in obtaining organic seed, as much that is sold in the markets is genetically modified and unsuitable for seed saving for future use. The removal of rubbish in the area has been a challenge, and the subject of a series of workshops. The most prevalent method of rubbish removal prior to the workshops was to toss it on the road or into the river, and now recycling, composting and appropriate burning is being practiced.

A further challenge has come from new political interest in development work being conducted in border areas, making this a national rather than regional issue. Currently this affects the number of people KCD may take to the project location – one visitor is acceptable, but a small group would be required to apply for permits from the Chief of the Province before visiting. There is also new legislation which will affect the running of NGOs such as KCD, but the application of this legislation is still being discussed.

Evaluation of projects in Pursat and Kandal Provinces, funded by QSA and DFAT, project expenditure $19,637

An integral part of each project is the process of impact and process monitoring. This enables there to be a satisfactory assessment that the objectives are being achieved, the finances spent according to the agreed budget, and activities happened on time and as arranged. But it provides more than that – it gives everyone involved a sense of achievement of what has been enhanced or improved since the project started. Allied to project monitoring is a more long term evaluation. This enables a more substantial and overall assessment over time to be made, which, when fed back into project planning and design, enables the organisation to grow and learn, and produce greater results in future projects. 

During this project year QSA undertook an evaluation of two projects in Cambodia with financial support from DFAT, assistance from a consultant in Cambodia - Margaret Bywater, and statistical assistance from the Master’s students from the Department of Development Studies, Royal University of Phnom Penh in Cambodia. The two projects selected were both providing training courses to enhance food security, one in Pursat and the other in Prek Chrey, Kandal Province. Five staff from each of the project partners – the Pursat provincial office of the Department of Women’s Affairs, and Khmer Community Development, received training in evaluation techniques given by Margaret. Following preliminary meetings between QSA’s project manager, the consultant and project partner staff, a careful review of the draft questionnaire (based on the ‘Individual Deprivation Measure’ devised by the International Women’s Development Agency) was conducted and the questions translated and modified to take account of local context. Thirteen topics were addressed, relating to household occupants; assets; employment; literacy and numeracy; and family income sources.

Designing the evaluation questionnaire. Photo credit Khmer Community Development

Designing the evaluation questionnaire. Photo credit Khmer Community Development.

The actual evaluation was conducted in Pursat Province by staff from Kandal Province, and vice versa, thereby reducing the risk of possible bias, and under the supervision of Margaret as consultant. Most of the questions contained a range of values to be selected, and a few more were open-ended to enable more specific information to be recorded. Participation in the evaluation had benefits for the project partners. They were able to see at first-hand how another project in a different area was able to meet challenges and assist village people to improve their livelihood.
The university students analysed and tabulated the responses into 72 separate tables as part of their course work, and a final report was prepared by the consultant and results fed back to the two project partner organisations for their information and to support changes to future project designs.

One of the most interesting findings was the increase in the number of families where the grandparents are taking care of the grandchildren and the family farm production because the parents and other young adults are away working in garment factories, construction work or other areas of unskilled work. This has been a gradual change over the past 10 years throughout Cambodia.

Vegetable and fruit growing without the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers and small animal raising continue to be popular in both Pursat and Prey Chrey as a way of improving family health and increasing income. Savings can be made because less money is spent on buying produce in the market. This money is often used to ensure children stay longer at school.

Overall both communities show more children are attending school, and continuing on to High School, than five years ago.  Respondents want to improve their own education and knowledge, looking for opportunities to improve or develop their literacy skills and learn how to make their small businesses more productive. There are some interesting challenges for project partners to try to meet these needs.  Villages in both locations have access to electricity and road access has improved.  

The timing of the report at the end of a very long and very hot dry season meant that villagers were very aware of the problems of lack of safe drinking water, and both communities have had to purchase water for their households.  There was some loss of poultry in Pursat villages, possibly because of the extreme heat or prevalence of poultry diseases.  

The availability of microcredit to project participants is important, particularly the savings group established in Prey Chrey. However the poorest people in both communities seem reluctant to use microcredit, and prefer to borrow from relatives instead which was a surprising result.