Soma Voeun is a young Cambodian who spent close to a year in Israel as part of the Agrostudies program. Upon his return to his country he created a unique educational network to pass the knowledge and experience on.
In 2008 Soma Voeun was one of the first few Cambodian students chosen by the Royal University of Agriculture (RUA) to undergo what was then, a new educational program for agricultural students in Israel. Agrostudies invites students for an agricultural internship that combines 'learning by doing' and advanced theory taught by a variety of lecturers in the classroom. He spent close to a year in Israel learning advanced growing techniques and gaining invaluable hands on experience in the field.
Once he completed his internship in Israel and received his diploma he returned to Cambodia and, inspired by what he had experienced and seen, sought a way to share this knowledge with other students in Cambodia.
Together with a number of other graduates from the RUA and with the support of the University, Soma Voeun created a network called the Volunteer Youth Network of Agriculture, Technology and Management, (VYNA). The goal of VYNA is to train skilled agricultural technicians and to prepare them for the Cambodian job market. Emphasis is placed on gaining practical experience in advanced farming techniques, gradually increasing the level of commercial farming throughout the country.
The RUA donated a plot of land to the network where members now practice growing various vegetables and raising chickens. Surplus produce is then shipped to the local market and sold at premium price, helping to sustain the network's activities.
Similar to the Agrostudies program, the network combines theoretical studies with practical experience. Members of the network attend lectures in addition to their regular university syllabus and at the end of the year they receive a Certificate of Training. Some of the students remain part of the network once they have completed the year and help pass their knowledge on to newcomers. 3rd and 4th year students will teach 1st and 2nd from their experience, allowing for a ripple effect and greater knowledge transferance.
Interestingly enough, the Israeli connection continues to net its way through this unique story. Every year the students participate in a study tour, visiting a modern farming facility, one of which is an Israeli project nearby the city of Siem Reap.
When asked how his time in Israel with Agrostudies affected him, Voeun replied
"Agrostudies is part of the inspiration. When I returned home I immediately recommended that the University to send more students the following year and expand collaboration on this matter. A number of the students from VYNA network have also participated in the Agrostudies program. The goal is to create an effective workforce for the field of agriculture."
So what's next? Soma Voeun hopes that in time the network may grow and develop into a professional network of agricultural technicians and professional advisers, allowing the network to commercialize and have an even greater impact on farming in his country.
Meanwhile collaboration between Agrostudies and Cambodia has proven a great success. Since 2008, more than one hundred and twenty Cambodian students have undergone the Agrostudies internship. 40 Cambodian students are participating in this year's internship across the country.