Publications and Reports

Project documents and Policy Briefs
Journal articles
Briefing Notes and Fact Sheet
Presentations


Project documents and Policy Briefs

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 version)
Author: Sokunthea Noun and Sophanara Phan

Year: 2018
Title: 2018 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: Report 1&2: Establish baseline farmers emphasising agricultural crops, practices, and household characteristics
Author: Brian Cook

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

Year: Underway; available at conclusion of project
Title: Report 4 & 5:
Author: Brian Cook

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


Journal articles

Title: Humanising agricultural extension: A review
Authors: Brian R. Cook, Paula Satizábal and 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, Wonprasaid Sodchol, Montgomery Stephanie
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: Gyorvary, S., & Lamb, V.
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 marginalized farmers of choice, rather than empowering them, as part of what Silvia Federici terms the financialization of reproduction. 

Title: Opening the agricultural extension ‘black box’: farmer experiences in the context of agrarian change
Authors: Dr. 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.

Policy Brief

Title: Ageing in debt: The struggles of elderly women cassava farmers in Northwest Cambodia
Authors: Dr. Paula Satizábal and Dr. 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.

Policy Brief

Title: Climate smart agriculture and climate-attuned farmers: the rationality of farmer practices in Northwest Cambodia
Authors: Dr. Brian Cook, Dr. Van Touch, Dr. Thong 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.

Policy Brief

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

Title: Pest and disease management: the impacts and spillovers of knowledge co-production
Authors: Dr. Brian Cook, Dr. Tin Aye, Dr. Van Touch, Dr. Thong Tran, Mr. Sophanara Phan, Mr. Andreas Alexandra,
Year: Final data collection in Q3 2022
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: Dr. Brian Cook, Dr. Van Touch, Dr. Thong Tran,
Year: Theatre engagements in Q3&4 2022 with analysis of audience contributions
Journal:
Abstract:


Briefing Notes and Fact Sheets

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)

Year: 2019
Title: Steph Review Sept18.19 (Steph transition slides)
Author: Montgomery, Phan

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: 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


Presentations

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

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

Date: March 2022
Title: The allure of micro-credit
Location: University of Melbourne Melbourne Microfinance Institution

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