The Joint Credit Mechanism REDD+ (JCM REDD+) project will enable Cambodia to maintain the conservation of the Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary. The project is being extended to more than 50 villages around the sanctuary.

At a last week meeting held to review the sanctuary’s progress in 2022 and plan a working direction for 2023, Oum Sony, country director and representative of Conservation International (CI) in Cambodia, said the project is being implemented in the entire wildlife sanctuary, with the full participation of the administrations of the four provinces where Prey Lang is located, Kratie, Stung Treng, Preah Vihear and Kampong Thom.

Although the first phase is yet to be completed, Sony hopes to sell carbon credits to generate additional income to support natural resource and biodiversity conservation work, while also improving the livelihoods of local communities.

“The main objective of the JCM REDD+ is to reduce deforestation and land grabbing. This is goal will only be achieved with the full participation of all key parties,” he said.

“As long as the crime of deforestation continues, we must all work together to protect the sanctuary. If Prey Lang is lost, Cambodia’s lowland communities will face many problems, especially those around the Tonle Sap Lake,” he added.

Sao Sopheap, Ministry of Environment secretary of state, said Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary is the largest remaining lowland forested area in Southeast Asia, so Cambodia has an obligation to conserve it.

“Its unique ecosystem also helps to prevent floods and drought,” he added.

“It is also a huge carbon credit reservoir, so if the forest can be preserved, they will provide carbon credits that can be sold to raise funds to conserve the natural resources and help local communities,” he went on.

He added that after the implementation of the project’s first phase, there were still many challenges, primarily due to deforestation, so the second phase would require the input of all stakeholders.

“What we need to do is drive protection and conservation work through increased patrols and strict law enforcement against all natural resource crimes. At the same time, we need to promote work that builds the local economy, as this will reduce the pressure on natural resources in the sanctuary,” he said.

“The next step is to define the zoning of the area, in accordance with the law on natural resources protected areas 2020,” he concluded.

A press release that followed the March 20 meeting said the Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary conservation project was coordinated by Conservation International and its development partners, including Mitsui & Co., Ltd., Japan, who have invested in supporting the sanctuary long term.

The first phase of investment ran from 2018 to 2021, with the second scheduled to run until 2026. The second phase was formally signed by the environment ministry, Conservation International and Mitsui & Co., Ltd. in April 2021.