The Non-Timber Forest Products-Exchange Programme for Cambodia (NTFP-EP Cambodia) considers non-timber forest product (NTFP) groups and associations the key to encouraging social and environmental protection in Cambodia, said an NTFP-EP Cambodia press release.
Released following the second National Forum on NTFPs on Monday, it said NTFP-EP Cambodia is a collaborative network of more than 60 NGOs and community-based organisations which work with forest-based communities to promote sustainable management of natural resources.
The press release said NTFP groups and associations are important providers of social protection, which greatly contribute to forest conservation and poverty eradication goals. About 68 per cent of total rural households across Cambodia rely on forest resources for their livelihoods.
“Protecting forest access rights for local communities, particularly for indigenous peoples, is therefore crucial to ensuring equitable benefit distribution through awareness raising and implementation of relevant legislation,” it said.
E Vuthy, the deputy secretary-general of the Ministry of Environment’s National Council for Sustainable Development, spoke before nearly 200 of the forest sector’s officials at the forum.
He said sustainable forest-based activities, which include collecting and processing NTFPs using efficient methods and technology, have helped develop the NTFP value chain to enable the inclusion of rural people in their socio-economic activities.
“We’ve observed that many NTFP groups and associations have been created to serve the rattan, bamboo and forest honey sector. The benefits gained have encouraged them to participate in forest conservation activities and protect nature in the long run as well as participate in rural development,” he said.
Through the combined efforts of the government, international and local NGO partners, as well as funding from the Dutch national committee of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and Asian Development Bank, NTFP-EP Cambodia has successfully supported the development of a total of more than 60 community-based enterprises to date.
They include those in Kratie, Stung Treng, Mondulkiri, Ratanakkiri, Preah Vihear, Koh Kong and Siem Reap provinces, said the release.
It said social enterprises last year covered a total of 379,897.74ha of community-based forest and fisheries management in the provinces. In addition, community incomes from NTFP production such as forest honey, bamboo, resin and Latania palm was estimated at $78,182 in 2017 and $66,898 last year.
NTFP-EP Asia executive director Femy Pinto said during the forum that community producers make up an important proportion of the NTFP private sector and are one of the key players in forest conservation and poverty eradication goals.
“These community groups seek to gain more support from different development actors including the government, private sector and other stakeholders in NTFP value chain development,” she said.
She said that NTFP production depends on the sustainable management of natural resources. But like other countries in Asia, Cambodia’s natural resources are increasingly used in unsustainable ways.
On forest logging, Diane Caroen, the team leader of the Lisdi project for WWF-Cambodia, said: “For community-based forest management in Cambodia to succeed, the integration between people, economics and preservation of the natural resources must be central in every forest policy.
“Land rights and community-managed forest lands are protected by laws and reinforced by national and local authorities, with continuous support from NGOs, local organisations, et cetera.”
NTFP-EP Cambodia head Sim Bunthoeun expressed his hopes that following the second two-day national forum between June 10 and 11, authorities – especially local authorities – will cooperate to further promote NTFPs and their markets.
“The challenges of villagers in communities today after producing NTFPs is the issue of their market. Forest encroachment is also a part of it, though we have not faced serious issues yet,” said Bunthoeun.
Ek Sovanna, a representative of the Prasat Toek Khmao forest honey community in Kratie province, said his community last year collected more than two tonnes of honey which it bought from villagers.
“We are concerned about forest encroachment because we are afraid it will seriously affect NTFPs in the future,” he said.