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Cambodia is one of the most biodiverse countries in South East Asia. Its forests harbour many threatened species that have disappeared from neighbouring countries. The Siamese crocodile and Asian elephant still survive in the country’s lush forest refuges.
As Cambodia’s economy is developing, once inaccessible forest areas now face multiple threats from logging, mining, poaching and agricultural encroachment. The main challenge for the Royal Government of Cambodia is to balance the needs of economic development with sustainable natural resource use.
Fauna & Flora International (FFI) has built strong relationships with the Government over the past 15 years. FFI assists the national authorities in building up their institutional capacity and in developing environmental policies and legislation. We place equal importance on the inclusion of civil society and the corporate sector in sustainable natural resource management.
FFI’s field activities focus on community engagement and empowerment, law enforcement, bio-monitoring and research. The combined output of all these interventions will strengthen biodiversity conservation whilst building good governance and alleviating poverty.
With the support of the USAID-funded Cambodia HARVEST (Helping Address Rural Vulnerabilities and Ecosystem STability) project, FFI (up until early 2015) helped manage the natural resources of the fragile Tonle Sap Basin in a sustainable way by working with over 55,000 stakeholders in more than 300 villages throughout Battambang, Kampong Thom, Pursat and Siem Reap Provinces. Over the last few years the FFI team conducted activities in non-timber forest product development, nursery and woodlot establishment, agroforestry, flooded and dry forest restoration, watershed management and protected area management, Cambodia HARVEST is implemented by Fintrac Inc., a leader in generating rural income and food security. Cambodia HARVEST is a five-year integrated food security and climate change project, which seeks to reduce poverty and malnutrition by diversifying and increasing food production and income for up to 70,000 rural Cambodian households. The HARVEST team is developing sound, agricultural-focused solutions to poor productivity, post-harvest losses, malnutrition, lack of market access, environmental degradation, and the effects of climate change on vulnerable rural populations.
FFI’s Asia-Pacific Community Carbon Pools and REDD+ Programme (2011-2014) was a regional initiative in Southeast Asia aimed at improving and strengthening REDD+ related forest governance, by ensuring that the tenurial rights of indigenous and forest-dependent communities were incorporated into decision-making processes and creation of Community Carbon Pools. The programme was managed by FFI working in close partnership with the NTFP-Exchange Programme and PanNature. The programme created synergies and shared knowledge between the programme countries: Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam. In Cambodia, FFI worked in partnership with the Forestry Administration of Cambodia to implement “Community Carbon Pools for REDD+” in the Community Forests of Siem Reap Province.
Improving community livelihoods and conserving biodiversity through participatory commune land use planning is the aim of FFI’s Cardamom Communities Project (CCP). Although the Kingdom of Cambodia is rich in natural resources, decades of war and internal conflict have left it one of the world’s poorest countries. The CCP team seeks to improve the food security and income of some of Cambodia’s most disadvantaged people in south-west Cambodia. The CCP project is working with approximately 18,000 people living around the majestic Cardamom Mountains from 34 villages in the Veal Veaeng (Pursat Province) and Samlout (Battambang Province) districts. These villages are located mainly in Phnom Samkos Wildlife Sanctuary and the Central Cardamom Protected Forest. Activities completed include: installing village libraries; knowledge gap and livelihoods assessments; establishing two community protected areas (CPAs); and land use change monitoring. The CCP continues to work with communities and local government to progress commune land use planning, establish CPAs and support community-based organisation to improve livelihoods and conserve biodiversity. The development of 10-15-year commune plans will better serve the local communities, such as gaining indigenous community access rights to ancestral land. The project is funded by Fondation Ensemble (FE). The CCP is a follow-on project to the Cardamom Mountains Wildlife Sanctuary Programme.
FFI Cambodia’s newest project seeks to improve management of Cambodia’s severely threatened coastal and marine ecosystems. The team works closely with the Fisheries Administration on species and habitat conservation, including protection of coral reefs and the Critically Endangered hawksbill turtle Eretmochelys imbricate. Our purpose is to put the necessary capacity in place to establish the first model large-scale Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the Koh Rong Archipelago. The proposed MPA will encompass over 400 km2 of ocean, including fringing reefs, mangroves and seagrass beds. This MPA aims to achieve sustainable utilisation of fisheries resources, while encouraging tourism, contributing to poverty reduction, and maintaining a healthy ecosystem. As most of the Cambodian coastline and islands are leased for future development, it is essential that such initiatives include private concession holders. The project is engaging with multiple-stakeholders including tourism operators and government officials. We are building the capacity of community-based organisations, representing local marine resource users so that small-scale fishers can directly engage in MPA resource management, working with and supported by government.
Decades of under-investment in the education sector left the field of biodiversity conservation in Cambodia severely hampered by a shortage of trained biologists and reliable biodiversity data. To address this issue, FFI helped the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP) establish Cambodia’s first Master’s degree course in biodiversity conservation in 2005. FFI and the RUPP co-deliver the MSc which has trained more than 100 Cambodians. From 2007-2008, FFI also helped establish the country’s first natural history museum and scientific periodical, the Cambodian Journal of Natural History. In 2011, FFI and the RUPP established an interdisciplinary research group and brought all of these activities together under the Centre for Biodiversity Conservation. CBC researchers are currently developing a monitoring programme for pileated gibbons in Bokor National Park, investigating the status of the endangered masked finfoot and fishing cat, and prioritising Cambodia’s bat caves for conservation protection.
The Critically Endangered Siamese crocodile is now extinct from 99% of its former range, following decades of hunting and habitat loss. Less than 250 adults remain, mostly in Cambodia. FFI is working with the Government and local communities to protect the remaining wild crocodiles and their habitat by developing crocodile sanctuaries protected by local community wardens. We also advocate for stricter controls over crocodile farming and trade and carry out research and monitoring. In 2006 FFI put together the Siamese Crocodile Survey & Monitoring Handbook and in 2009, FFI helped to discover 35 purebred Siamese crocodiles in a local wildlife rescue centre and has developed the first conservation breeding programme in the country – a vital source of genetic diversity for the re-introduction of the species into new areas.
There are currently estimated to be 400-600 wild elephants in Cambodia, with the main concentration located in the Cardamom Mountains in south-west Cambodia, and the eastern plains of Mondulkiri Province. FFI established the Cambodian Elephant Conservation Group (CECG) in 2005 to ensure the survival of the Asian elephant in Cambodia, stabilising and increasing wild elephant populations throughout the country. The group brings together three different institutions so that government and non-governmental wildlife managers act together to strike a balance between local community needs and elephant habitat requirements. FFI provides technical and fundraising support, complementing the expertise of government wildlife management agencies, the Ministry of Environment and the Forestry Administration. We are delighted that the project is now managed by Cambodian nationals who work with forest communities to reduce human-elephant conflict and raise awareness. The group also focuses on increasing government capacity, gathering vital information through camera trapping and habitat threat mapping and developing cooperation with neighbouring and other range states. This video provides more information about the impact of high level forest disturbance on human-elephant conflict in Cambodia.
The release into the wild of 20 juvenile Critically Endangered Siamese crocodiles in August 2014 was a significant step forward for the survival of the species in Cambodia. The Cambodian Crocodile Conservation Project (CCCP) team works with local community members in the Areng Valley to rescue, rear and release Siamese crocodiles. Since 2011, the CCCP has released 55 crocodiles back into the wild. Around half of these were donated by farmers or confiscated from illegal wildlife traders and reared by…Read more
Cambodia’s waters are home to an abundance of important habitats ranging from coral reefs and seagrass meadows to mangrove forests. These ecosystems support a rich variety of marine life, including many charismatic species such as Irrawaddy dolphins, hawksbill and green turtles. Cambodia’s marine environment plays an important socio-economic role; fishing and related activities are crucial for coastal economies, and fish is an essential part of people’s diet in Cambodia, accounting for over three quarters of the animal protein consumed. Unfortunately,…Read more