Communities in natural protected areas in Preah Vihear province have been demonstrating their commitment to conserving forests with the help of forest rangers from the Ministry of Environment and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS Cambodia).
An added benefit to conservation may have been found with forest carbon credit sales. Carbon credit sales in the province could potentially provide money for community development as well as funding to further safeguard the natural resources there.
While visiting the province’s Chheb Wildlife Sanctuary on June 10, environment ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra said the ministry and WCS Cambodia have been studying the feasibility of selling carbon credits for the northern regions that include some natural protected areas.
He said the ministry had allowed WCS Cambodia to implement a REDD+ project – emissions reduction through forest carbon – in four natural protected areas including the Kulen Prum Tep , Chheb and Prey Preah Roka wildlife sanctuaries and the Phnom Tbeng Natural Heritage Site.
“Samples are taken and studied from 43 locations in these four areas so that other specialists can evaluate them before they are to be put up for sale on the voluntary market abroad, ” Pheaktra said.
Lach Vin, the head of the community in the Prey Andong Dang Philit Protected Area of the Chheb Wildlife Sanctuary, said community members welcomed the project because it would help improve their livelihoods in addition to increasing tourism.
“Currently, our community members are assisting the forest rangers and WCS Cambodia in protecting our natural resources, the forests and wild animals and the wildlife sanctuaries with vultures, white-winged wood ducks and giant conches. Our residents have decent livelihoods that benefit from the implementation of other projects in our area.
“We have learned the value of natural resources and the forest, so we are committed to helping the rangers care for the natural resources and forests. If we care for the forests sustainably, this natural heritage will be passed down to the next generation,” Vin said.
Norng Deng, the head of the community in the Prey Chheb natural protected area of the Chheb Wildlife Sanctuary, said his community members continued to collect sustainable forest by-products such as mushrooms, fruits and tree resin.
“Our community members take turns patrolling the forest along with the ministry’s rangers three times per day.
“Previously, people logged timber and cleared the forests to take the land for themselves. But since the forest in our area was designated as protected conservation areas, not many people have been logging in them anymore,” he said.
Deng added that hundreds of families in his community were continuing to tap tree resin to sell it and that they could earn on average $500 a month from the job.
WCS country director Ken Serey Rotha said the organisation is currently implementing biodiversity conservation projects in the four natural protected areas covering more than a half million hectares.
He said the areas had supported the livelihoods of nearly 10,000 families and more than 30 species of wild animals under global threat.
The organisation had drawn on its experiences from successfully setting up the carbon project in the eastern part of the country in the Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary.
“Cambodia has so far succeeded in selling carbon credits on the voluntary market. It is a point of pride that we have participated, especially within the Southeast Asian region – Cambodia is the first country to sell [carbon credits],” Rotha said.
Pheaktra agreed. “This carbon market is really important for Cambodia and it highlights an improvement of our natural protected areas.”
He added that since 2016, Cambodia has generated $11.6 million from selling carbon credits to major companies like Disney, Kering, Intuit, Shell and Gucci.
Cambodia is also studying and implementing pilot carbon credit projects in the Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary along with the Mitsui Company.