Publications & Reports

Project Documents
Journal Articles and Policy Briefs
Briefing Notes and Fact Sheets
Presentations


Project Documents

Year: In Preparation; available at conclusion of project
Title: Report 7: Spillovers resulting from community engagement and co-production of pest and disease management
Author: Brian Cook

Year: In preparation; available at conclusion of project
Title: Reports 4 & 5
Author: Brian Cook

Year: 2023
Title: SSS/2019/138 Annual Project Report
Authors: Caitlin Finlayson, Brian Cook

Year: 2022
Title: SSS/2019/138 Annual Project Report
Authors: Caitlin Finlayson & Brian Cook

Year: 2022
Title: Report 3: Experiences and perceptions amongst groups of farmers
Author: Brian Cook

Year: 2020-2021
Title: 2020-21 Annual Report: Uptake of agricultural technologies and best practices amongst farmers in Battambang and Pailin provinces, Cambodia (ASEM/2013/003)
Author: Brian Cook

Year: 2020
Title: Reports 1&2: Establish a baseline survey for farmers in the 12 villages, emphasising agricultural crops, practices, and household characteristics
Author: Brian Cook

Year: 2019-2020
Title: 2019-20 Annual Report: Uptake of agricultural technologies and best practices amongst farmers in Battambang and Pailin provinces, Cambodia (ASEM/2013/003)
Author: Brian Cook

Year: 2018
Title: 2018 Annual Project Report: Uptake of agricultural technologies and best practices amongst farmers in Battambang and Pailin provinces, Cambodia (ASEM/2013/003) (Khmer)
Authors: Sokunthea Noun & Sophanara Phan

Year: 2018-2019
Title: 2018-19 Annual Report: Uptake of agricultural technologies and best practices amongst farmers in Battambang and Pailin provinces, Cambodia (ASEM/2013/003)
Author: Brian Cook

Year: 2017-2018
Title: 2017-18 Annual Report: Uptake of agricultural technologies and best practices amongst farmers in Battambang and Pailin provinces, Cambodia (ASEM/2013/003)
Author: Brian Cook


Journal Articles and Policy Briefs

Title: Agricultural extension institutions in rural Cambodia: Unpacking extension agent-farmer relations
Authors: Thong Anh Tran, Brian Cook & Van Touch
Year: Under review
Journal: The Journal of Agricultural Education and Extension
Abstract: Agricultural extension depends heavily on the relations between extension agents and farmers, which shapes the transfer of knowledge and adoption of innovations, leading towards enhancing agricultural productivity, rural livelihoods, and sustainable farming practices. Their relations between extension agents and farmers are largely influenced by institutions that underpin on-the-ground extension operations. This paper examines how rural institutions shape their relations and space of engagement in extension activities in Cambodia. The study draws on the data collected from semi-structured interviews with forty-eight experts who work on agrarian studies and rural development in Cambodia and Southeast Asia. Rural institutions in Cambodia constitute two major institutional boundaries (formal and informal) that shape the nature of extension-based interactions among the rural actors. Their shared boundaries create an institutional interstice defining interactions between farmers and extension agents. The paper reveals the limited presence of extension agents and their lack of interactions with farmers, thus undermining their relations and minimising opportunities for (co)-learning and (co)-production of knowledge. The paper offers a theoretical understanding of agricultural extension in the context of the Global South that, while strengthening extension agent-farmer relations is essential, advancing agricultural extension should devote more attention to traditional values and practices that are inherently embedded within the informal institutions. Reframing institution-based extension development pathways would enable synergies among the rural actors to effectively tackle challenges amidst agrarian change in the region.

Title: How agricultural extension responds to amplified agrarian transitions in mainland Southeast Asia: experts’ reflections
Authors: Thong Anh Tran & Van Touch
Year: 2024
Journal: Agriculture and Human Values
Abstract: Recent decades have witnessed widespread agrarian transitions in mainland Southeast Asia. This paper examines how agrarian transitions are shaped by multiple drivers of change, and how these interwoven processes have triggered shifts in agricultural extension practices in three countries in the Lower Mekong Basin: Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Drawing on interviews with experts working on the fields of agrarian studies and rural development, this paper argues that agrarian transitions not only put a strain on agricultural extension systems in responding to evolving needs, but they also stimulate the co-production of innovative agricultural extension models to address gaps left by the limited presence of extensionists. The study gains insight into challenges faced by extensionists, including a lack of resources, skills, and capacities to meet growing needs, which simultaneously urged them to excel in their work performance. The paper highlights the proactive role of ‘champions’ in orchestrating collective efforts towards the co-production of innovative agricultural extension models (e.g. Metkasekor), and the formulation of pluralistic extension platforms in enabling such ‘co-learning-to-act’ practices. By translating these insights into the broader contexts of agricultural and rural development in the Mekong region and beyond, this paper aims to make a two-fold contribution. First, it will assert how the ‘business-as-usual’ extension model has failed to adequately address emerging needs as a result of agrarian transitions. Second, it will provide pathways for the recognition and legitimisation of the pluralistic extension approach that fosters stakeholders’ co-learning and productive engagement in extension practices.

Title: Historical Agrarian Change and its Connections to Contemporary Agricultural Extension in Northwest Cambodia
Authors: Brian Cook, Paula Satizábal, Van Touch, Andrew McGregor, Jean-Christophe Diepart, Ariane Utomo, Nicholas Harrigan, Katharine McKinnon, Pao Srean, Thong Anh Tran & Andrea Babon
Year: 2024
Journal: Critical Asian Studies
Abstract: This historical overview uses a political ecology approach to examine agricultural change over time in Northwest Cambodia. It focuses on key historical periods, actors, and processes that continue to shape power, land, and farming relations in the region, emphasizing the relevance of this history for contemporary investments in agricultural extension services and research as part of the Zero Hunger by 2030 policy agenda for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Agricultural extension projects need to engage critically with historically complex and dynamic power, land, and farming relations – not only as the basis of social relations but as central to understanding the contemporary manifestation of farmer decision making and practice. Initiatives such as the SDGs replicate long histories of externally driven power-relations that orient benefits from changed practices towards elites in urban centers or distant global actors. Efforts to realize zero hunger by 2030 are endangered by neglect for the path-dependency of power-land-farming relations, which stretch from the past into the present to structure farmer decision making and practices.

Title: The Politics of Extension: Rural development practices and the resistance to change
Authors: Katharine McKinnon, Caitlin Finlayson, Brian Cook, Andrew McGregor, Kerry Woodward
Year: In preparation
Journal:
Abstract:

Title: Translocal relations, migration and the importance of the family in supporting farmers in Cambodia
Authors: Caitlin Finlayson, Nicholas Harrigan, Ariane Utomo, Brian Cook, Van Touch, Andrew McGregor & Katharine McKinnon
Year: In preparation
Journal:
Abstract:

Title: Pest and disease management: the impacts and spillovers of knowledge co-production
Authors: Brian Cook, Tin Aye, Van Touch, Thong Anh Tran, Sophanara Phan & Andreas Alexandra
Year: In preparation
Journal:
Abstract:

Title: Sustainable development and farmer perceptions of agricultural change
Authors: Brian Cook, Van Touch & Thong Anh Tran
Year: In preparation
Journal:
Abstract:

Title: Theatre productions and audience responses: the case of cassava research and presentation of findings for consultation in villages in Northwest Cambodia
Authors: Brian Cook, Van Touch & Thong Anh Tran
Year: In preparation; theatre engagements in Q3&4 2022 with analysis of audience contributions
Journal:
Abstract:

Title: Climate smart agriculture and climate-attuned farmers: the rationality of farmer practices in Northwest Cambodia
Authors: Brian Cook, Van Touch & Thong Anh Tran
Year: In preparation
Journal:
Abstract: Climate smart agriculture (CSA) envisions farmer decision making being reoriented to support food security in the context of rapid and significant climate change. The underlying rationale is uncontroversial while also being reliant on poorly understood assumptions concerning farmers, their decision making, and the ability of external experts to influence on-farm practices. Implicit within the CSA discourse is the assumption that farmers are not presently ‘climate smart’. Based on 400 quantitative surveys, 300 household interviews, and demonstration farm data we analyse farmer decision making in the context of climate variability, though we define ‘climate’ as multi-faceted and compounding materializing in environmental, social, and economic forms. Our data shows farmers who are ‘climate smart’, but who are not driven by productivity. Rather, farmers focus on survival and limiting their exposure to risk, in many cases choosing lowered productivity to limit their exposure to economic and social variabilities. The resulting cassava production regime common to farmers in Northwest Cambodia is shown to be sensitive to climate variabilities despite representing ‘suboptimal practices’ from the prevailing production- and yield-emphasizing perspective at the heart of CSA. The results highlight a conflict between prioritisation of productivity relative to farmers’ livelihoods and exposure to risk, endangering the success of CSA as well as other development initiatives such as the sustainable development goals. Using the case of cassava farmers in Northwest Cambodia, farmer decision making with the CSA discourse is shown to be poorly representative of the considerations that farmers identify as paramount to the behaviours. Climate smart farming may, then, not be in the interests of climate smart farmers. The implications for food security are immense.

Title: Ageing in debt: The struggles of elderly women cassava farmers in Northwest Cambodia
Authors: Paula Satizábal & Brian Cook
Year: Reviewed and revising
Journal:
Abstract: Rural livelihoods are being dramatically transformed by uneven agrarian political economies. However, the intersections between agrarian transitions and the struggles of ageing farmers in the Global South remain largely unexplored. This paper sheds light on the ‘hidden geographies of ageing’ amongst rural women cassava farmers, revealing how they are disproportionately impacted by intensifying capitalist relations. We examine ageing women’s lives and struggles drawing on farmer interviews in the Northwest of Cambodia, weaving their accounts with an analysis of rural livelihoods conducted with farmer households using a quantitative baseline survey and interviews with village leaders. We analyse their concerns and desires associated with cassava production, as they negotiate and respond to environmental changes, pest and disease management, declining yields, and price volatility. We pay attention to their experiences in the context of rural mobilities, limited access to labour, and financial hardships. In facing the emotional, time, financial, and material burdens of the agrarian transition, ageing women frequently fall into a debt cycle as part of their efforts to maintain control over their land and farming livelihoods, while younger generations migrate in search for better economic opportunities. For many, this translates to selling/renting their land and assets and, in some cases, sacrificing food intake to pay debts. Life in this rural context is precarious, as women are gradually dispossessed from their land, farming livelihoods, labour networks, and family support as they age. These findings highlight the importance of foregrounding the gendered and aged struggles of rural farmers as central in the context of agrarian transitions.

Title: Opening the agricultural extension ‘black box’: farmer experiences in the context of agrarian change
Author: Brian Cook
Year: In review
Journal:
Abstract: Agricultural extension is prominent within numerous international discourses, the means of influencing farmer behaviours in order to respond to societal challenges such as Sustainable Development or Climate Change. Agricultural extension is ‘black boxed’, meaning that its history, critiques, and recent evolutions are disregarded. Farmers’ experiences are needed in order to understand how global processes can and might connect with farmer decision making. Drawing on more than 400 quantitative surveys and 300 qualitative interviews with cassava farmers in Northwest Cambodia, farmers are shown to be rational and sophisticated, employing a low-input, low-cost, risk-averse model of decision making. As opposed to formal extension, as assumed within ‘black boxed’ versions of extension, informal relations dominate farmer behaviours – neighbourly and familial relations are shown to constitute agricultural extension as experienced. Farmers’ relations stretch through social networks that span extensive time and space. Positively, these informal relations help farmers inform themselves, raise their own awareness of agricultural technologies, and assess the potential effectiveness of alternatives. Negatively, the myopia of their relations, results in widespread vulnerability to economic and environmental variability. The low-cost, low-input, low-risk model appears to ‘raise the floor’ while also ‘limiting the ceiling’ of farmers livelihoods. The relational analysis of agricultural extension as experiences informs development of a theory of change labelled ‘grasp’, helping to conceptualise the webs of nested relations that constrain behaviour and explaining the fundamental disconnection between informal extension and extension as black boxed.

Title: Humanising agricultural extension: A review
Authors: Brian Cook, Paula Satizábal & Jayne Curnow
Year: April 2021
Journal: World Development (Volume 140)
Abstract: Agricultural extension is booming. This interest is critical in the context of numerous pressing issues linked to agrarian change and rural development. Because of its importance, extension has attracted significant critique for its persistent exclusion of social and political factors. In this light, the history of extension can be thought of as a paradigm composed of approaches aimed at increasing agricultural production through the transfer of technologies from experts to farmers, and a series of criticisms of technology transfer as hampered by neglect of socio-political factors, a process labelled ‘rendering technical’. By reviewing criticisms of extension for its rendering of socio-political factors, we account for the rendering of power, place, and people. Equally important, we offer examples that consolidate critiques in order to open the possibility that humanized extension may more successfully support farmers. Our review is an effort to engage extensionists in order to speak about power to those who attempt to speak truth to power.

Title: The effect of planting on cassava yield and the risk of crop failure in Northwest Cambodia
Authors: Sophanara Phan, Sodchol Wonprasaid & Stephanie Montgomery
Year: 2021
Journal: Asian Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Safety (Vol. 2021, No. 1)
Abstract: Most farmers in Northwest Cambodia plant cassava in the hottest months of the dry season (March or April). Farmers in this region usually attempt to plant crops after occasional storms in the late dry season (February-March) that crops sown at these times are at high risk of crop failure. This study was conducted with the objective of evaluating the effects of time of planting (April, May and June) on cassava yield under two different farming practices (conventional hill and no till) in Northwest Cambodia. The experiment was arranged in a split-plot design with four replications. Results at the Samlout site in 2017-18 showed that planting cassava in June, regardless of farming practice, and planting cassava using the conventional hill practice in May, produced significantly higher yields compared to either practice planted in April (P < 0.05). However, this April planting time did not produce significantly different yields to no till planted in May (P > 0.05). At the same site in the 2018-19, planting either treatment in May and planting with conventional hill treatment in June produced significantly higher yields than planting with no till treatment in April (P < 0.05), but there was no significant difference to the conventional hill treatment planting in April (P > 0.05). Results at the Pailin site in the 2017-18 season showed that there were no significant differences or interaction in yields between any of the treatments (P > 0.05). Results at the Pailin site in 2018-19 showed that plantings using both treatments in April and May produced significantly higher yields compared to both practices in June (P < 0.05). Our research recommends that the altered time of planting in May and June may improve cassava yield and reduce the risk of crop failure. The study suggested that the risks of crop failure and profit losses can be minimised by adjusting planting time in the future.

Title: From Sapphires to Cassava: The Politics of Debt in Northwestern Cambodia
Authors: Sabina Gyorvary and Vanessa Lamb
Year: 2021
Journal: ACME: an international E-journal for critical geographies
Abstract: Microfinance has attracted increasing attention, not only for its goals to empower the poor but for its potential negative effects that can serve to undermine that core goal of empowerment. In this paper, we examine microfinance debt in the context of Cambodia’s cassava boom and its particular history of resource extraction. Focusing on cassava farmers in Pailin province, a former Khmer Rouge stronghold in northwestern Cambodia, we find that post-conflict Pailin cassava farming is linked with indebtedness to microfinance institutions. As the burden of debt erodes community life and heightens individual anxiety, our analysis of interviews conducted in 2018 shows that Pailin’s small-scale cassava farmers lose capacity to build the solidarity necessary to address problems collectively. Drawing on critical work on debt and historically-situated political ecology, we see a situation shaped—but not determined—by a history in which local elites have controlled significant portions of the local economy, extracting personal benefits. We argue that, in this context, microfinance initiatives extend this longer history of resource extraction as concentrations of power and wealth go unchallenged. Microfinance loans are thus better seen as part of a system of depriving marginalised farmers of choice, rather than empowering them, as part of what Silvia Federici terms the financialisation of reproduction.


Briefing Notes and Fact Sheets

Year: 2021
Title: Taking Care of Cassava: Easy ways to manage pest and disease. Interactive PDF Pamphlet in English/Khmer (6.1MB).
Authors: Tin Aye, Brian Cook & Andreas Alexandra

Year: 2020
Title: Next generation agricultural extension: social relations for practice change. Fact Sheet on Project SSS/2019/138.
Author: Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR)

Year: 2019
Title: Cassava Agronomy trials and transition to fruit trees
Authors: Stephanie Montgomery & Sophanara Phan

Year: 2013
Title: Uptake of agricultural technologies and best practices amongst farmers in Battambang and Pailin provinces, Cambodia. Fact Sheet on Project ASEM/2013/003.
Author: Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR)


Presentations

Date: April 2022
Title: Agricultural Extension as Experienced
Location: ACIAR Brown Bag Lunch Session

Date: November 2021
Title: What factors drive behavioural changes amongst Cambodian cassava farmers?
Location: Online for Grow Asia

Date: March 2020
Title: The allure of micro-credit
Location: University of Melbourne Melbourne Microfinance Institution