After decades of under-investment in the education sector, following civil war and the Khmer Rouge genocide, biodiversity conservation in Cambodia was severely hampered by a shortage of trained biologists and reliable biodiversity data. To address this issue, FFI in partnership with the Royal University of Phnom Penh established Cambodia’s first Master of Science degree in biodiversity conservation in 2005, which has trained over 300 Cambodian nationals to date and provides much needed vocational courses to natural resource management professionals from the NGO and government sector. Graduates are highly sought after by national and international NGOs and over 73% have gone on to work in conservation or natural resource management, directly making and influencing policy decisions. One of the first graduates has completed his PhD and is now managing the project.
The project’s research centre, established in 2011, acts as a national hub for postgraduate education, original biodiversity research, information dissemination and inter-agency collaboration. Notable achievements are the management of the country’s first and only working Zoological Reference Collection and the country’s only peer-reviewed scientific journal, the Cambodian Journal of Natural History, first published in 2008.
Our publications are valued at the highest levels of the Cambodian government and our research is consistently cited by the scientific community. As we continue to produce MSc graduates, increase our vocational training, and conduct and publish research, more people will have the skills and knowledge required to make informed decisions to bring greater benefits to Cambodia’s biodiversity and the people who depend on it.
We are grateful for financial support from Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.
“The project has grown from a pilot that depended heavily on foreign expertise to a mature programme which is increasingly driven and managed by Cambodian expertise. The Royal University of Phnom Penh is now in the process of taking full ownership to allow the project to survive independently into the future.”
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Cambodia is one of the most biodiverse countries in Southeast Asia, with as many as 8,260 plant species and more than 250 species of amphibian and reptile, 874 fish species and over 500 bird species.