An environmental group has urged the government and civil society to take steps to build a sustainable green economy in the Kingdom, as rampant deforestation and resource exploitation threatens to affect the livelihoods of millions of Cambodians.
The first National Forum of Community-based Non-Timber Forest Product (NTFP) Enterprises, a two-day conference aimed at strengthening efforts toward building a sustainable green economy in the Kingdom, was held yesterday at the Himawari Hotel in Phnom Penh.
Femy Pinto, the executive director of the NTFP-Exchange Programme Asia, yesterday opened the gathering of government officials, NGO representatives and activists, emphasising the importance of such products for Cambodia’s mostly agrarian society.
“Non-timber forest products are considered one of the main resources used for livelihoods [in] many communities living and adjacent to forests,” she said. “In Cambodia . . . tens of thousands of households [are] reliant on them – not singly for their subsistence and cash income – but vitally as part of a diversified livelihood strategy to cope with seasonal changes, varying patterns of food and other resource availability to meet household needs.”
The event, supported by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the Cambodia Harvest programme (an initiative supported by USAID) and the Cambodia NTFP Working Group, was meant to strengthen local NTFP businesses through cooperation, education and awareness of issues facing many of the country’s customary communities.
According to Pinto, small and medium forestry enterprises in the developing world make up as much as 90 per cent of businesses in the sector, as well as more than 50 per cent of forestry-related employment.
As Cambodia’s mostly-rural population is largely dependent on NTFPs – 75 per cent of the country’s economy is agriculture-based – the participants stressed the importance of empowering traditional businesses.
“The Royal Government of Cambodia fully supports the forestry sector,” Forestry Administration official Long Ratanak Koma said in his address to the forum. “Better management is needed to protect those who depend on the forest”.