Project Role: Co-investigator
Project: Uptake of agricultural technologies and best practices amongst farmers in Battambang and Pailin provinces
About: Steph is an Australian agronomist with a range of experience across multiple sectors including private consulting, commercial agronomy and government research and extension. She is the sole Director of Northern Ag Focus Pty Ltd, and has a Bachelor of Rural Science (Hons) and a PhD both from the University of New England, Armidale, Australia. Steph was recently conferred with the Chancellor’s Doctoral Research Medal (UNE) in recognition of her thesis research investigating new farming systems for upland crops in Northwest Cambodia. The focus of this study was to improve productivity, profitability, and sustainability of the farming system; and as such has provided important local information and research results for our current project.
Steph has been working on ACIAR projects in Cambodia and Australia for over thirteen years and has a strong interest in improving sustainability of the upland agro-ecological systems and farmer livelihoods without detriment to the soil resource base. The Samlout and Pailin regions where this new project is based are located in the top of the Sangke River catchment. Soil degradation from the plough based farming system has resulted in declining crop yields, conversion to monoculture cropping (maize and now cassava), declining soil fertility and downstream pollution of the catchment (>1 000 000 people) due to soil erosion.
Steph’s PhD research illustrated that through conversion to conservation agriculture including no-tillage and rotation cropping legumes and sunflower, sustainability of the farming system was improved by way of increased farm profitability and protection of the natural resource base. Furthermore, her research proved that a delay in sowing time by two months significantly reduced the risk of crop failure in the pre-monsoon season and greatly increased yield and profitability of the whole farm system. These results if adopted by farmers could have significant impacts on improvement of household livelihood, GDP and benefits to the environment. Steph is hopeful that by continuing research in the region, she will be able to provide more options to farmers to improve management and profitability of their farm whilst educating them on the importance of protecting the whole agro-ecological system.