The AFD project to support smallholder rubber production in Cambodia (PHF) fulfilled and even surpassed its quantitative and qualitative objectives in terms of areas planted and quality of plantations. It demonstrated the capacity of smallholder farmers to seize opportunities offered by this new crop in a context where rubber plantations were not established except by national agro-industrial companies. In this sense, this project helped establish a sustainable technical benchmark in smallholder rubber production in Cambodia.Smallholder rubber plantations have also proven profitable, even in the current situation of falling prices, in comparison with other possible crops in Cambodia. The AFD project thus enabled project farmers to invest in a crop that will allow them to earn significant income.The sustainability of the PHF activities is more difficult to fulfill, as the project acted in the place of sustainable, competent organisations for consulting, credit and input supply. However, new participants have begun to emerge and have set themselves up, thanks to the project. They can take over services provision: in the future, planters’organisations will be able to provide some technical assistance and place collective orders for inputs; wood gardens and nurseries will be able to supply quality plants; and agricultural technicians have been trained in consulting on rubber production.
In terms of availability of loans, however, from the very outset, the conditions of the proposed tailored products for rubber production make it difficult for an existing Cambodian financial institution to adopt them. The future of the credit line, which is central to the project, remains uncertain. This impasse holds many lessons as it forces us to think about the financial instruments used, particularly in terms of targeting. For the poor farmers, it might have been better to offer a partial subsidy, focused, for example, on plants. For better-off farmers, it might have been possible to supplement their ability to self-finance by offering a short-term or micro-credit bank loan.