The protection of forest communities in Cambodia
In Cambodia, land degradation, illegal logging and over-harvesting are threatening forest resources. Forest cover has decreased from 60 percent in 2006 to 44 percent in 2018. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is working with local authorities, INGOs, NGOS and communities to restore forests and landscapes in the country. In Cambodia, 65 percent of the rural population depends on agriculture, natural resources and forests as a primary source of food and income. SOUNDBITE (Khmer), Tun Kean, 37, community forest member, Rovieng District, Preah Vihear Province, Cambodia: “This community forest gives us benefits such as extra income for our families, it prevents drought and provides food such as vegetables and fruit.” Like many other villagers, Tun Kean earns a livelihood mainly from subsistence rice farming, cash crops such as cashew nut and non-timber forest products such as wild vegetables. Since 2016, FAO, in partnership with the Forestry Administration, has been implementing innovative forest and landscape restoration actions with an integrated landscape approach. The activities are carried out in five pilot sites in three provinces, Kampong Thom, Siem Reap and Preah Vihear, with the aim of improving the local livelihoods of communities and enhancing the sustainability and profitability of lands already in cultivation. SOUNDBITE (English), Khorn Saret, Deputy Director General at the Forestry Administration, Cambodia: “The programme aims to scale up forest and landscape restoration actions and contribute to the improvement of sustainable ecosystems and livelihoods for forest-dependent communities.” The project supports capacity building for communities in tree planting, introducing the concept of equitable sharing of benefits, which motivates community members to participate and maintain tree planting. SOUNDBITE (Khmer), Chhun Vantheoeurn, RECOFTC provincial project coordinator: “The benefit-sharing scheme is implemented only for the groups maintaining restoration activities in the replanted area. These groups have the right to plant agricultural intercrops in that area. This mechanism is benefiting the community members and contributing to the improvement of the forest ecosystem by reducing soil erosion through planting intercrops and by supporting natural forest regeneration to ensure that native tree species grow.” Alexendre Huynh, FAO Cambodia representative, highlights how the project “has helped demonstrate that community forest members can take care of their own restoration and sustainability actions as long as they are provided with the appropriate tools and resources.” SOUNDBITE (Khmer), Tun Kean, 37, Community forest member, Rovieng District, Preah Vihear Province, Cambodia: “When I have access to extra land, I feel so happy because I will be able to generate more income for my family. This extra income will allow me to invest more in my agricultural activities.” Each year the world loses more than 10 million hectares of forest and degradation affects almost 2 billion hectares of land (an area larger than South America). Forest destruction and land degradation is affecting the well-being of at least 3.2 billion people and costing more than 10 percent of annual global GDP in lost ecosystem services. The United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed 21 March the International Day of Forests (IDF) to celebrate and raise awareness of the importance of all types of forests. FAO and the United Nations Forum on Forests are the lead agencies organizing the Day.