Some 200 agricultural development experts and government ministers from across Asia and the Pacific gathered here on Tuesday to discuss plans to transform rural areas in the region.
The 2-day workshop on transforming rural areas in Asia and the Pacific was jointly organized by the Cambodian government and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
"The experts and government ministers will discuss plans to transform impoverished rural areas and improve the lives of rural people," said an IFAD's press statement.
"The regional conference will set out a strategy to transform rural areas into vibrant and economically viable communities, and will conclude with a concrete plan of action for IFAD and its partners and member states."
Addressing the opening ceremony on Tuesday, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said investment in agriculture, especially in small-scale farmers, is an essential factor not only to ensure food security and nutrition, but also to create jobs for peoples.
"Such investment will provide a lot of benefits to rural peoples and drag millions of peoples out of poverty," he said.
The prime minister said Cambodia saw agriculture and rural development as one of the top priorities to boost economic growth and poverty reduction.
He said poverty rate in Cambodia declined to 19.8 percent in 2011, down from 29.9 percent in 2008.
John Murry McIntire, associate vice-president of IFAD, said in rural areas of the region, the agricultural sector is still the best option to generate income, and yet a chronic lack of access to improved technologies and sustainable investment opportunities make it hard for rural people to improve their living standards.
"By providing financing, engaging in policy discussions and forming pro-poor partnerships between the private and public sectors, we can assist rural people to create a viable future for themselves and their communities," McIntire said.
According to the press statement, Asia and the Pacific is home to two thirds of the world's poor, over 750 million people, and two thirds of the world's 805 million undernourished and hungry people.
Urban areas in the region continue to develop rapidly, while rural areas suffer the effects of urban migration, lack of modern infrastructure and economic stagnation, according to a 2014 IFAD policy brief, adding that increasing income inequality between urban and rural areas can put countries at risk of social conflict and political instability.