Aligning Award Study with Work Opportunities
Department Manager (Animal Health and Crop Protection) with Jebsen & Jessen (Cambodia) Co., Ltd (JJCB), a subsidiary of Jebsen & Jessen South East Asia (JJSEA), Australia Award graduate Try Piseth has always been interested in improved farming system and sustainable agriculture development.
Piseth grew up in Kirivong district, Takeo province, the south of Cambodia. While studying at secondary and high school, he spent a lot of his free time after school helping his parents herd cattle and grow vegetables, fruits, rice for consumption and supplementary incomes.
After passing high school exam in his province, he wasn’t sure of what study area he wanted to pursue. But leaving his farmhouse and going to any university in Phnom Penh was then the main focus. This would allow him to explore more things and enjoy new life experiences in a bigger, most modernized city of the county, which was definitely his dream since a kid.
However, things didn’t move as his plan. When finishing his local high school in 2001, he didn’t pass any entrance exam to study at university in Phnom Penh, but decided to enroll in a 2-year pedagogy program in Takeo’s town.
Without giving up his attempt, in the following year 2002 Piseth was admitted to the Royal University of Agriculture (RUA), recommended by his brother and friends, then also studying there. He chose Animal Science and Veterinary Medicine as the major for his bachelor and successfully completed his course in 2006.
Piseth wasn’t interested in the subject at all while in the university. He used most of his time developing research related skills and learning English instead.
At the university, he learned various overseas scholarship opportunities from his lecturers and friends. Obviously, it was the main reason behind his strong aspiration to get a scholarship for advanced degree in developed economies like Japan, Australia, and the US, etc.
Also, Piseth wasn’t sure of what kind of jobs he really wanted to do. Right after graduation, he eventually got an opportunity to be a volunteer network researcher with Handicap International for three months before moving to an NGO, Cambodian Center for Study and Development in Agriculture (CEDAC) where he worked for two years in monitoring and evaluation.
As part of this job, he committed a significant portion of his time travelling in rural communities, deeply interviewing hundreds of farmers on various aspects, including key challenges of Cambodian farming system, and the further of agriculture in Cambodia.
From his few years of research experiences, Piseth believed that Cambodian’s farming sector, though important, was poorly developed, unorganized, fragile and weak in-house processing and marketing infrastructures. The production needed to be coordinated, and the supply chain required a greater level of integration, which would then ensure a better market stability, greater supply chain efficiency, better produce quality, higher supply reliability & consistency and especially higher price for farmers.
To further develop his research skills and gain wider experiences, in 2009 Piseth moved to the Economic Institute of Cambodia (EIC) where he served another two years as a researcher, then to a modern rice miller Golden Rice (Cambodia) Co., Ltd (GRC)- EIC’s sister company.
“Having such investments like GRC is the right way to go for promoting the development of Cambodia’s agriculture. Small producers and the whole economy will significantly benefit from it given a better market access, higher value added and more jobs for the locals. I was enthusiastically motivated to serve GRC and really wanted to see its great success”, he said.
After a year with the company, he wanted to step up and took a business management role in private sector. This led to his application for an Australia Award to strengthen his business management knowledges and capacities. Without solid preparation, he failed in the first year, and was finally awarded in his second year a Masters of Agribusiness at the University of Melbourne in 2010.
Piseth was very impressed with the practicality of lecturing, and the high quality of libraries and other resources available to students in Australian universities. Though not enrolling at the University of Melbourne specifically for learning business development skills, he found that was a significant part of his course.
“During the break, I spent considerable time on trips around Melbourne, to learn more about farm management practices and agricultural supply chain – and to help with this, I rolled up my sleeves and woke up early in the morning to work on Australian farms and in a supermarket.” “I saw these experiences as all part of making the most of my learning opportunities while in Australia.”
Piseth believes that his past experiences with development sector and research industry have provided him with a natural foundation for progression into the commercial sector.
“I see myself as result-oriented, so it is important to use my study opportunities meaningfully and to excel in my job”
When returning to GRC after his graduation, he was given a large assignment - developing commercial livestock farms and feed plant, so as to enable GRC to transform its byproducts into higher value-added products.
After six months at GRC undertaking market analysis and related assessments, investment funds were not made available for execution. So, this new initiative could not be further progressed into real feed plant and livestock farms. Eventually his contract with GRC finished.
“It took me a while to align my studies with what I wanted to do in my career. I like to test out diverse opportunities and try something different”.
Finally, Piseth established a new business model for chicken farming in 2013 - locking in the whole supply chain with its own farms, slaughter house, retailing networks, etc.
He saw this integrated model development as “value-adding” to traditional methods. Unfortunately, the startup did not work out as expected, as he “did not have complete ownership of the supply component, and the capital dried up.”
“Quality control is always the hardest aspect of the supply chain approach”, he added.
Before taking his current job with JJCB, a member company of JJSEA, employing approximately 4,500 people across South East Asia, Piseth spent one-and-a-half years in Battambang with United Cambodian Agri (UCA) as a marketing manager.
Piseth stays in touch with his colleagues from the University, and he occasionally talks to his Course Coordinator in Australia; together they published his thesis.
He strongly supports the increasing importance and engagement of Australia Awards with the private sector in Cambodia.
“I wish DFAT could get more people from the private sector completing Business Administration courses, and participating in internship program for six months prior to their return. This will provide them with some practical knowledge, experiences, and skills, related to the area of their study. I think this is quite a useful preparation for them to take on the job they like when back home”.
Nevertheless, in the future, he may get involved in grass-roots political advocacy and, if the opportunity arises, and in professional development trainings that he can share his business development, management knowledges and experiences with younger generations.