Cambodia’s Forestry Administration, UNDP and Global Environment Facility on Monday jointly launched a new project worth over USD3.8 million to help preserve forests and biodiversity in four provinces: Kampong Speu, Kampong Chhnang, Pursat and Battambang.
The “Strengthening Sustainable Forest Management” project will be implemented by the Forestry Administration through February 2015. It is funded by cash grants of USD2,363,635 from GEF and USD1,500,000 from UNDP. It will be carried out through community forestry activities by engaging rural communities in nature conservation and creating markets for sustainable bio-energy technologies to help reduce green house gas emissions. The long-term goal is to help prevent further loss of forest cover.
“This project will undoubtedly aide further our endeavors to protect, manage and preserve our forests. Development community forestry in Cambodia provides us with a unique opportunity for us to achieve sustainable management of our forest resources in the greatest interests of our nation and people,” MR. Ouk Sokhonn, Secretary of State of Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said in his opening speech at the launch.
Forest cover in Cambodia is estimated to be currently at 57 %t and the government aims to restore it back to 60 %t. The %tage is among the highest in the region. However, protected areas and forests in Cambodia are under constant threat from logging, fuel wood dependency and lack of alternative energy sources, clearance for agriculture, weak forest sector governance and economic and social land concessions.
The four selected provinces are home to forests that have globally significant biodiversity and can also act as major carbon reserves. But the forests there are subject to a range of severe threats that could lead to further loss of forest cover. The provinces of Kampong Speu and Kampong Chhnang are major sources of fuel wood supply for urban centres, namely the capital Phnom Penh.
MR. Chheng Kimsun, Delegate of the Royal Government and Head of Forestry Administration, said the project is in line with the National Forest Programme where decentralized forest management through community forestry and community protected areas is a key focus. He said that as part of its commitment to preserve the forest the government is aiming to establish 2 million hectares of community forestry sites throughout the country by 2029.
“At the same time, the Forestry Administration is implementing carbon credit pilot projects in community forestry in Ouddar Meanchey and Siem Reap provinces to contribute to reducing poverty of the rural poor and addressing problems of climate change and global warming,” he said.
“Efforts by all involved in developing community forestry sites so far are greatly appreciated. It is not an easy process and requires a great deal of diligence and coordination. But working together we will succeed to leave a long-lasting positive legacy for generations to come,” he said.
Activities to be undertaken by the new project include establishment and management of forest-based businesses in approximately 30 community forests and 10 community protected areas. Villagers, women in particular, will receive training in production of energy efficient cook stoves to generate incomes and help reduce consumption of firewood and emission of carbon dioxide.
In Cambodia, forest resources contribute from 30 to 40 %t of total household livelihood of rural people living near forests. Therefore, providing them with means to earn incomes to support their families is a crucial incentive to involve them in forest conservation, Sophie Baranes, UNDP Cambodia’s Deputy Country Director for Progamme, said in her remarks at the launching ceremony.
“We are very pleased to have representatives from the ministries, agencies, provincial and local authorities, and non-governmental organizations joining us in the launch of this project. This is the evidence of our shared concern and commitment to address forest degradation and improve sustainable forest management in Cambodia,” Ms. Baranes said.
She added that amid the increasing impact of climate change and the loss of biodiversity, the United Nations General Assembly declared 2011 as the International Year of Forests to raise awareness on sustainable forest management. Such a move emphasizes how proper forest management can contribute significantly to sustainable development, poverty eradication and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.