The Sansom Mlup Prey Organisation (SMP) announced it is recruiting farmers to join its IBIS Rice programme. Members will carry out organic rice cultivation and wildlife rescue in four provinces – Stung Treng, Ratanakkiri, Mondulkiri and Preah Vihear.
SMP executive director Keo Socheat said the enrolment of new members to the programme is free of charge, and there is no limit to the number of members, provided they qualify.
This project aims to improve the lives of people living in protected areas and encourage them to participate in conservation activities, he said.
“Membership is free, and we provide them with good quality rice. We have selection committees in each village that will assess the candidates. The farmers can grow the rice wherever they want – unless they encroach on forest land,” he added.
Socheat said that nearly 1,500 families are currently on the programme. As a general rule, when people grow organic rice – which contributes to the rescue of wildlife – his NGO will offer 20 to 30 per cent above the market price, and sometimes up to 60 per cent.
The NGO said on March 28 that if farmers are interested in increasing their income by growing wildlife-friendly rice – and live near the targeted wildlife sanctuaries – they should contact the project coordinator in their area to find out more details. Applications close at the end of April.
The programme will be available to those who live in or near Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuary and Veun Sai-Siem Pang National Park in Ratanakkiri; Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary in Mondulkiri; Siem Pang and Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary in Stung Treng; and Kulen Promtep, Prey Preah Roka and Chhaeb wildlife sanctuaries in Preah Vihear.
The NGO said that in addition to receiving high market prices, by participating in this project, farmers are protecting forests and wildlife, as well as preventing climate change. They also get access to new farming techniques.
Lin Sambath, a field worker at the NGO, said that he inspects the rice at each stage of growth until it is delivered to the mill. The quality inspection of the rice is based on size, colour, cracking and hardness, and includes peeling, seeding and moisture inspection processes.
Sambath said he quit his job at an oil company to work with this NGO because of the value of its four main principles – The use of non-chemical fertilizers, protecting the forest, refraining from cutting down trees and trading in illegal timber, and the protection of wild animals.
“I expect that most new members will be with the project for a long time. The IBIS rice programme offers a real chance at a better life, and gave a lot of farming families the chance to send their children on to higher education. I hope that the next generations will see the forests and the wildlife and will recognise and understand the work that went into preserving them,” he said.