RiceUp in Cambodia

This RiceUp trip to Cambodia and the Philippines was a very rewarding experience. Seeing the individual
farmers, getting to know them, and spending time with them was eye-opening. These experiences
helped us to see more specifically how the RiceUp program is impacting real people and what more we
must do to further that impact. Indeed, our goal for this trip was not only to check progress, but to
expand the program to impact many more lives. This trip, we officially launched in multiple areas of
Davao, a southern province of the Philippines and also to two areas in Cambodia- Siem Reap and
Battambang.


Four members of our team with their accompanying advisor began their journey in the Kingdom
Cambodia. We had been preparing for this trip for months by working with our volunteers on the
ground to establishing a system. Prior to the trip, our volunteers from Cambodian Jobs Foundation
conducted interviews with over 80 farmers. Now that we had the information needed, this trip was our
chance to visit the farmers, visit the local leaders, to develop partnerships, create agreements, and
launch RiceUp Cambodia. First, we visited the farmers in their homes. We simply wanted to get to know
them, their desires. We listened to their stories. We ate and laughed with them. Through these visits,
we also confirmed the research data that the volunteers had gathered through the interviews, giving us
more confidence in the the RiceUp Cambodia solutions, which will be patterned after the programs
already happening in RiceUp Farmers, Inc. (Philippines).
Both areas have unique agricultural challenges that require different priorities, but the core elements
they need are the same. Just like our farmers in Pampanga, Philippines, the farmers in Siem Reap
needed direct access to the market, a opportunity to receive more affordable capital, modern farming
technology, and affordable fertilizer. The farmers in Battambang, on the other hand, were struggling
with acquiring water, which was largely controlled by Chinese businesses in the area. The farming
associations in Battambang are also controlled by the government, rendering the farmers unable to set
their own fair prices and without direct access to the market.
During the trip, we organized two launching events: One in Siem Reap and one in Battambang. We
introduced over 80 Cambodian farmers to the RiceUp Farm School program which has been very
successful in the Philippines thus far. We also introduced them to the concept of creating their own selfgoverned farmers’ cooperative that will allow them to claim their right to set their own prices, raise
their own capital, and do business as they wish. This is their opportunity to become agricultural
entrepreneurs or “agri-preneurs” through RiceUp. It is our aim to bring them economic and business
freedom by teaching principles of finance, business, and entrepreneurship in our Farm School. We also
bring experts to mentor them on modern ways of farming, as well as using marketing and sales
technology through the internet, a mobile app, and social media. But for now, we will start with the
basics.
After our initial launch, we were very pleased to hear from the local village President of our Siem Reap
branch. He said he took the concept of the program up to his superiors and they are wondering why we
are only focusing on his village- “why not the other villages too?” We simply said that we are happy to
work with them towards expanding this program to more areas of need. Throughout the rest of the trip,
the two remaining team members in Cambodia continued to push the project forward., Gabe and
Pattica were able to further market RiceUp to a variety of organizations and establish further rapport
with the Cambodian Jobs Foundation (CJF). In the meeting with CJF Director Veasna, we were able to
touch on three details to better establish a stronger bond between the two business entities. The
discussion points included (1) how RiceUp can pay employees on the ground, (2) if CJF was to provide
microloans, how could this effect RiceUp Cambodia, (3) hiring a project manager on the ground in
Cambodia. In response to these questions: (1) Brother Veasna requested that the money be directed to
President Moon as a donation, and then to let him know that it is for RiceUp and then he will distribute
it accordingly. (2) CJF has explored the feasibility of microloans but is slow to implement because of
several regulations but will let RiceUp know and use the program if available. (3) Brother Veasna
granted the authority of a new worker to speak on his behalf through CJF and as a new project manager.
Ultimately, Brother Veasna vowed to stand and support RiceUp Cambodia with everything that it might
need, including hiring an additional employee to act as a liaison between CJF and RiceUp. At a second
meeting Brother Veasna he strongly encouraged the use of the mobile app because he sees potential
opportunity in Cambodia specifically. We later had the opportunity to network with two groups of
university students, under the direction of CJF. Both groups worked with agricultural entrepreneurship.
One of the groups focused on eliminating the middle man system for famers specifically growing
vegetables. The other group focused on chickens and other animal production and the sales to the
middleman. Both groups have great potential but are still in the idea and project phases. RiceUp
Cambodia was able to act as a mentor to these students and created a relationship that could possibly
create a partnership, following their implementation and donor response. We also sought out multiple
farming organization in Cambodia to network with but because of the Cambodian New Year, we were
not able to meet them. Instead, we were able to get the contact number of a business that sold organic
produce in a wealthy Cambodian neighborhood boarding Phnom Penh. This could a lucrative market for
the Cambodian farmers in the future. For the project manager interview, we were able to interview two
people and one of them proved to be a very promising and passionate subject. Pattica also acted as the
speaker for a talk in a fireside about BYU-Hawaii looking for future students.
Our aim is not simply to help people, but to change the entire agricultural industry towards becoming an
agricultural ecosystem founded on principles of social entrepreneurship.

 

JOSEPH DUANO

Head of Business Strategic Team