September 24, 2020

Youths use Facebook to ease farmers’ burden

The pandemic has affected everyone in the world in some way, but some have been hit harder than others. Cambodian farmers fall in the latter group, as many of them have faced a severe loss of income due to the pandemic-spiked economy.

To assist these farmers in dire straits, a group of youths has come together to create Covid Farmer Hacker, a project that hopes to link rural farmers with markets across the country.

The group was formed in late March by five students. They manage the Facebook page of the project and are working on ways to put farmers’ fruits and vegetables in consumers’ hands.

The five founding team members – Doung Chandarith, 23; Rile Piton, 20; Vang Rattanakmealtey, 20; Ean Sreyleak, 22 and Heng Sotheavy, 21 – are seniors in university or have just graduated.

While they were thinking of how to help vulnerable farmers at the grassroots level, they came across Impact Hub Cambodia, an organisation which connects and enables young Cambodians to solve problems in the world through entrepreneurial initiatives.

Sotheavy and Piton tell The Post: “As we see, lots of farmers’ products, including vegetables and fruits are not selling during Covid-19. We were all friends before and asked each other who was interested and which part they would be able to cover.”

They penned a proposal seeking support and mentorship from Impact Hub.

“The borders have been closed and even in the country, farmers aren’t able to sell well. This is why we came up with the idea of creating this project to connect farmers with leftover products to local and urban markets,” says Chandarith.

The team at Covid Farmer Hacker also wants to safeguard farmers’ products against natural disasters and share new farming techniques through social media.

Chandarith, a medical student, broke down their mission in three steps. “In step one, we find interested members to plan a project.

“Step two, we manage the [Facebook] page, find a sponsor and start to publicly post to let people know more about us. We then start to share the farmers’ products and pass them on to those who are interested.

“In step three, when we are known by many people and supported by sponsors, we will go down to the community or provinces where agriculture has been severely impacted by Covid-19 and connect farmers and buyers through social media,” he says.

Sotheavy, who recently graduated from Cam Ed Business School with a degree in accounting and finance, says: “Now we only pass the information we have via Facebook. If we see farmers post pictures of their products, we will share and let people who are interested contact them directly.”

Chandarith says social media is the perfect avenue to drum up support and it was unnecessary to create a completely new platform.

Instead, if they manage to get sponsors for the project, they plan to use the resources to expand the rural farmer and consumer communities.

“If we get more sponsors, we want to have a bigger community to stay in close touch with them [the farmers],” he says.

During the past seven months, the team has worked on the project voluntarily. Although they’re not paid, Sotheavy says the real benefit is helping the farmers.

“The benefit was basically for the farmers so they can sell whatever they plant and help them with techniques in growing. For the buyers, they can buy and help support local products of good quality.

“We are a group of youths and we didn’t want anything besides inspiring the locals to grow and through us, you don’t need the middlemen. From the buyer to the farmers, they can directly contact each other,” she says.

The team is also focused on doing more field trips for research. “The most important thing is that we want to encourage farmers to continue planting and let them know that they can supply the agricultural demand of the country.

“Looking ahead, we don’t want to be just a group who helps to pass on information. We hope to help them by personally following up. We hope to see our agriculture self-sustain our country. If we enhance local farming, we may be able to reduce imports.

“We just want to encourage people to support local products because if we don’t, they won’t have the motivation. So we want to help each other,” Sotheavy says.

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