Journal article: Leveraging shared interests to advance sustainable food safety systems in Cambodia


This journal article, published in the Journal of Rural and Community Development in 2018, was coauthored by Karen LeGrand, Borarin Buntong, Thort Chuong, Thong Kong, G. David Miller, Cary J. Trexler and Glenn M. Young.

The journal article analyzes how community savings groups established among smallholder farmers in six villages in the Kandal Province of Cambodia can help farmers afford new agricultural technologies. This research was conducted in collaboration with the Horticulture Innovation Lab project focused on building safe vegetable value chains in Cambodia. 


In many Low-Medium Income Countries (LMIC), smallholder farmer access to consumer-driven markets is limited by lack of knowledge, capital, appropriate technology and technical training. While technical innovations and new techniques can improve the quality, quantity and safety of agricultural products for the market, adoption of new technologies and practices by smallholder farmers is often hindered by additional social and logistical constraints. To address the wide range of problems experienced by smallholder farmers seeking a higher standard of living, both natural science and social science solutions are required. This pilot study describes a mechanism for overcoming multiple constraints smallholder farmers face when attempting to change their agricultural practices. Community-driven savings programs were organized around the shared interests of individuals involved in various aspects of the agricultural supply chain in six villages in Cambodia. These Shared Interest Savings Groups (SISGs) were initially designed to help members learn to (a) amass lump sums of capital for investments in agriculture, and once operational also served as an organizing platform to (b) collectively identify problems and test solutions, and (c) provide funding for early scaling of appropriate agricultural technologies. This case study proposes an innovative model for effectively mitigating multiple constraints that typically hinder LMIC agricultural advancements. The participatory, social learning SISG model is therefore a promising soft technology that warrants further testing at a larger scale to validate these findings.

What is a community savings group?

Excerpt from the article:

Members own and manage all saving group activities and thereby learn, through experience, to build incipient civil society structures (Rasmussen, 2012). The highly participatory nature of weekly savings and loan activities encourages collaboration and also builds basic financial tools that are essential for managing group savings and making financial decisions. The lessons learned within the group are particularly impactful for women in LMIC who generally have little opportunity to develop financial management and leadership skills. Savings groups are also particularly attractive to women as a means to avoid social isolation, build collaborative structures within communities, and protect their small savings. Given savings groups’ high level of participatory decision-making, the SISG model was designed to serve as a vehicle for collective action to address agricultural problems. In this case study, the new idea was that savings groups were an appropriate soft technology to develop the social structures and financial systems required to identify and overcome constraints to support the adoption of hard technologies by smallholder farmers aimed at improving productivity and food safety.




LeGrand, K., Buntong, B., Chuong, T., Kong T., Miller, G. D., Trexler, C. J., & Young, G. M. (2018). Leveraging shared interests to advance sustainable food safety systems in Cambodia. The Journal of Rural and Community Development, 13(3), 167–191.

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