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The Harvest II Project: Using a Buyer-Led Approach to Horticulture in Cambodia

Cambodian market
A Harvest II project staff member (right) visits a Cambodian market to connect with potential partners in the horticultural sector.
Photo credit: Harvest II

Millions of Cambodians recently have risen from poverty, yet many still are highly vulnerable. Accelerating growth of the horticulture sector would further reduce poverty and bring new opportunities rural residents. Abt Associates and its partners are taking on this challenge with USAID’s Feed the Future Cambodia Harvest II project.

In a departure from previous production-driven models, Harvest II focuses on getting goods to market. Abt and its partners begin by identifying buyers ready to increase purchases of horticultural products from the four targeted provinces. The team connects buyers to producers, helps them develop a plan detailing how they will work together, and builds the capacity of producers to meet specific buyer needs.

“Helping both the buyers and the sellers succeed is crucial to the success of Cambodia’s horticultural market,” said Polly Dunford, USAID/Cambodia Mission Director, during the project launch. “That’s why we are proud to support this new initiative that will spur a critical sector of Cambodia’s growing economy.”

A key feature of the approach is starting with the buyer. In September, Harvest II signed its first memoranda of understanding with six buyers — some interested in a mix of vegetables, others specializing in single products such as cashews, mushrooms, and pineapples.

As part of its start-up work, Harvest II conducted a baseline survey of 17 buyers and 280 producers from 61 villages in Pursat, Battambang, Siem Reap, and Kampong Thom provinces. The average producer reported annual sales of $6,500 — with a sharp gender disparity, as men averaged $8,555 and women $4,260. Harvest II’s approach is tailored to fit the needs of each buyer-supplier relationship, so the team is designing some activities specifically to improve women’s ability to compete in the sector. The team is also planning ways to help youth benefit from Cambodia’s expanding horticultural sector.

“Feed the Future Cambodia Harvest II presents an excellent opportunity to apply innovative thinking to the way that horticultural crops are marketed,” said Alexis Ellicott, Harvest II chief of party and Abt principal associate. “We look forward to catalyzing increased trade, improved relationships in the sector, and new investment opportunities.”