A climate and biodiversity project in Cambodia, led by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), was approved by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Council in Washington, the US, last week.

The project is a part of $1 billion worth of projects and programmes which aim to address environmental challenges and climate change adaptation priorities. 

A FAO press release seen by The Post on February 27 explained that the project in Cambodia aims to strengthen the climate resilience of local communities and ecosystems in protected areas, while contributing to climate mitigation. 

The proposed target landscapes, the Boeung Per Wildlife Sanctuary and Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary, fall within the Northern Tonle Sap Basin, a region with high vulnerability to the impacts of climate change.

It will be implemented over five years, with the first phase scheduled to target the Boeung Per sanctuary, and the second phase, from years three to five, slated for the Prey Lang sanctuary.

According to the release, the project has been approved for $8.01 million in project financing from the GEF Trust Fund and the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF), leveraging $21.5 million in co-financing. It will be implemented as a collaboration between the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the Ministry of Environment and FAO. 

It aims to restore 2,000ha of land, while improving the management of an additional 92,300ha, and will train over 1,700 local people and benefit nearly 8,500 residents.

FAO described Cambodia as one of the countries that is most vulnerable to climate change impacts due to its level of exposure to climate hazards, high dependence on climate-sensitive sectors and natural resources, and limited capacity to adapt to the impacts of climate change. 

“The recently approved project aligns with the Cambodian government’s goal of seeing the people enjoy harmony, resilience, and inclusivity of the physical and natural environment, with a good balance between development and environmental conservation,” said San Vanty, standing secretary of state at the environmental ministry and GEF operational focal point.

He explained that the agriculture and environment ministries will work with FAO to formulate the project and ensure it aligns with the government’s priorities, as articulated in phase one of the government’s Pentagonal Strategy and the ministry Circular Strategy on Environment 2024-28.

He said the circular strategy is based on three key strategies: being clean, going green and being sustainable.

According the release, in addition to focusing on climate resilience and mitigation in local communities in Cambodia’s protected landscapes, the project will also promote resilient biodiversity-friendly crop and livestock production systems, as well as strengthening and expanding sustainable livelihood options for the local population.

“This project provides an opportunity for the two ministries to further strengthen collaboration to support local livelihood development and climate resilience, while enhancing ecosystem and environment restoration and protection,” said agriculture ministry undersecretary of state Meas Pyseth.

“This is one of several FAO-led GEF and Green Climate Fund projects that are adopting an integrated approach to building the resilience of local communities and ecosystems. By supporting livelihoods, biodiversity and other ecosystem services, we can achieve a better environment, leaving no one behind,” said Rebekah Bell, FAO representative in Cambodia. 

The project adds to the history of partnership between the Cambodian government, GEF and FAO. 

Through the UN agency in Cambodia, GEF and LDCF financing is supporting the government’s efforts to build the climate adaptation capacity of coastal fishery dependent communities, promote climate-resilient livelihoods in rice-based communities and enhance groundwater management of the Mekong River Delta aquifer across borders.

A total of 46 countries have partnered with FAO to access finance from the GEF under this programme, including 14 in the Asia-Pacific region: Cambodia, Bhutan, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, the Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.