NATURAL GARDEN: ORGANIC OPPORTUNITIES FOR SMALL GROWERS
Neak Tharen, a young Cambodian entrepreneur started his career in the agricultural sector to help farmers grow and increase their income in order to improve their living. While working in the sector, he noticed that many farmers faced a big challenge of not having a market for their vegetables, fruits, and other agricultural crops. He noted that the market for these kinds of agricultural products was quite large, and the produce sold in the markets was chemically grown and imported from neighbouring countries like Vietnam and Thailand. Recognizing the huge potential and demand for locally produced vegetables and other agricultural crops, he worked towards and founded Natural Garden (NG) in 2008.
Over the years, NG has developed into a known retailer of organic and chemical-free vegetable and fruit products. These products are sold in its retail shops and are certified as organic and chemical free by Cambodian Organic Agriculture Association (CORAA). NG sources most of its fruits and vegetable requirements from its own farm and contract (household) farms. For its in-house production, NG manages four farms in various locations with a total production area of 20 hectares. In total, NG at present has around 200 contract producers and two retail stores. Furthermore, it also patronizes agricultural products from farmers that practice Good Agricultural Practices (GAP). These products that come from GAP farmers go through its wholesale channel and are sold to hotels, restaurants, and caterers.
To further improve its viability, NG saw the importance of scaling its retail and wholesale operations. This was possible only if more farmers were capacitated and connected to its retail and wholesale business. Ascertaining the need, NG applied to C4D Partners to escalate its operations. C4D Partners found that NG was a good fit to its agricultural development agenda, and since it was a good example of an inclusive business model generating impact for its suppliers and buyers, C4D Partners was happy to invest in the venture. The Investment amount would be used for retail (opening of 3 new retail outlets, and renovation of 2 existing) and wholesale operations. NG will also use the amount for farm development and to upgrade its food processing facilities.
NG presently works with its farm and store workers, agricultural cooperatives and associations, small farmers, and producers to source its products. The positive impacts through the investment are expected to permeate to all these stakeholders. The company will upsurge the sourcing of vegetables from 21 farmers currently to 583 farmers in 2017, and store workers will increase from 28 at present to 62 in 2017. It will also support more than 500 farmers in the process of converting from conventional farming to chemical-free organic farming, realizing value addition to their produce.
This, on a broader level would contribute to securing the food and nutrition security of the country as well as safeguarding the general health of its population.