The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), in collaboration with the Forestry Administration of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and its provincial department, distributed 6,000 saplings in Kampong Thom province on June 12.

The organisation provided the trees to aid in building joint efforts for sustainable forest resources through planation and restoration efforts under the “Every Tree Counts Initiative 2024”.

The endeavour was organised under the Community Action for Sustainable Forests (CASFor) project, a collaborative effort spearheaded by multiple organisations including the agriculture ministry, the Ministry of Environment, FAO, the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the Regional Community Forestry Training Center for Asia and the Pacific (RECOFTC). 

Supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), CASFor prioritises bolstering community forestry by implementing management practices, particularly promoting restoration activities.

The FAO distributed the saplings and organised tree-planting sessions alongside youth presentations focused on environmental restoration, aiming to nurture partnerships in tree plantation and forest restoration efforts, according to a June 12 FAO Cambodia press release. 

It said by doing so, the initiative aimed to support the government’s objectives, including its nationally determined contributions (NDCs), long-term strategy for carbon neutrality and the targets outlined in the national forestry programme, with a broader goal of enhancing forest cover across the country.

Due to unsustainable land use, energy consumption and lifestyle, greenhouse gas emissions are rising globally. Deforestation and forest degradation account for 15 per cent of emissions and significant loss of biodiversity, said Markus Buerli, director of cooperation at the Swiss Cooperation Office and Consular Agency in Cambodia.

“Cambodia, heavily relies on natural resources and agriculture, and faces severe climate impacts like rising temperatures and extreme weather, exacerbating vulnerabilities.

“[SDC] aims at increasing communities' resilience to climate change and disasters, supporting them in obtaining secure and equitable access to natural resources – land, forest and water – and building their capacities to manage these resources sustainably,” he was quoting as saying in the press release.

Rebekah Bell, FAO representative in Cambodia, was quoted as saying, “Today's activity symbolises our collective commitment to building partnerships for forest and land restoration, promoting sustainable management of local forest resources, enhancing resilience, improving livelihoods, ecosystem services for local communities and aligning with national and global goals on climate change mitigation and biodiversity conservation.”

Forestry administration director-general Chheng Dany urged partners to allocate resources to support tree planting initiatives to highlight their contributions to the restoration and preservation of natural and forest resources.

“On behalf of the Kampong Thom provincial administration, as a local authority, we consistently endorse efforts aimed at safeguarding and conserving natural resources, particularly through activities such as reforestation, tree planting and increasing forest cover, with active involvement from communities and partners. 

“These efforts aim to foster sustainable local development, ensuring that our people reap the benefits of our forests,” he was quoted as saying in the press release. 

The event was attended by representatives from local authorities, communities, academia, media and various international organisations.

Cambodia’s proactive approach to combating climate change and conserving its natural heritage stands as a model of responsible environmental stewardship, said the press release. 

“As the nation advances towards sustainability, the ‘Every Tree Counts Initiative 2024’ emphasises our collective duty to nurture and protect the planet for future generations, amidst Cambodia’s evolving environmental landscape,” it said.