The Cambodia Horticulture Advancing Income and Nutrition (CHAIN) project was externally evaluated in 2022, and the results were overall very satisfactory, as assessed by the evaluators. One of the significant impacts of the project was the transformation of the market system, resulting in higher availability and supply of locally grown vegetables.
The evaluation highlighted that the project’s impacts are expected to remain through the involvement of formal and informal private sector actors who have found new distribution and supply markets. The project’s focus on local markets before national markets was considered valuable. The evaluation found that farmers, the majority of whom were women, swiftly adopted successful technologies such as drip irrigation, plastic mulching, farm water storage ponds, solar pumps, raised beds cultivation and mechanised land preparation. Farmer sharing using social media and visits also proved very effective.
The evaluation estimated that 90% of local produce went to local wet markets with informal arrangements. Formal contract farming arrangements were much more difficult to broker successfully. While food safety practices were seen as essential, the evaluation revealed that certified products (GAP standard) are expected to require a consumer and private sector-driven approach.
Segmenting farming households for different graduation strategies was important for project implementation, and the evaluation highlighted that future projects should focus on semi-commercial and commercial farmers. Subsistence farmers need a different approach with more emphasis on nutritious consumption. Young women entrepreneurs were identified as a priority focus for the development of the horticulture subsector in Cambodia, as input resellers and traders, through applying a gender and women economic empowerment intervention lens.
The evaluation also highlighted lessons learned about market systems development emphasising the need for an adaptive approach and the latitude to try many approaches as progressive insights bring new issues to the fore. Market systems development projects often work with the formal private sector and engage in advocacy with the government. However, sometimes implementers deprioritise the creation of an enabling environment and the capacities of decentralised government as a service provider/broker, which is incredibly important to ensure the success and sustainability of projects.
Overall, the CHAIN project has made significant progress in advancing income and nutrition in Cambodia's horticulture sub-sector. The evaluation findings provide valuable insights that can inform the development of future projects in Cambodia and similar contexts.