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Koh Kong villagers trade logging for agriculture

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The community has also established a plantation spanning 20ha to grow three types of fruit trees. Heng Chivoan

Koh Kong villagers trade logging for agriculture

Over 200 families living in Koh Kong province’s Sovanna Green Village Community who used to log timber and hunt wild animals for a living have now turned to agriculture to sustain themselves.

Ministry of Environment spokesman Neth Pheaktra said the families used to live in mountainous areas, wildlife sanctuaries and natural resource conservation areas along the Stung Prat canal and in the Chi Phat area.

In 2004, they moved to live at Sovanna Green Village, which is located in Botum Sakor district’s Kandorl commune. The village was an agricultural development project coordinated by the Wildlife Alliance.

He said each family in the community had been granted land concessions measuring 25m by 600m to convert them into village lands and plantations. He said the plan was to give the villagers new job opportunities.

“This project encourages changes to the livelihoods of residents and aims to provide them with steady [jobs]. First, the lands belong to them. Second, they have jobs. Third, they have incomes and fourth, they are safe.

“In the past, residents were nomadic rice growers. They went to clear forest land to grow rice and later cleared forests in other places. This affected natural resources, biodiversity and other wild animals,” he said.

Pheaktra made the comments when he led over 20 reporters to inspect natural resources in the province late last week.

Ath Noch, the head of Sovanna Green Village Community said that residents were very happy because they were granted land for permanent and legal occupation.

They had also received training in agricultural techniques to strategically grow rice on each plot until achieving success.

Noch said that coming to live in the community was easier than before because there are schools, hospitals and a market near their houses.

Their children could have an opportunity to complete high school education and some could even continue their studies at universities in Phnom Penh.

“They get a different cash crop yield from strategic crop growing. For the community to be sustainable for a long time, the community has just established a plantation spanning 20ha to grow three types of fruit trees, including 1,687 durian trees, 353 rambutan trees and 1,493 Pailin longan trees.

“When this collective plantation is more successful, the community will assist helpless old people and orphans in getting into schools in the future,” he said.

Noch said residents learned about the importance of the forest and wild animals because they can attract tourists and provide benefits for them in a lasting manner.

Pheaktra also confirmed that over the last 10 years, the Chi Phat area has become a safe wildlife sanctuary and a beautiful forestry area that attracts tourists.

He said thinking of the residents’ livelihood is an effective measure to strengthen the protection and conservation of natural resources. The ministry is also consolidating residents’ roles in patrolling conservation areas.

Koh Kong province consists of 15 natural protection communities established by the Ministry of Environment and six others are in the process of being established.

The provincial Department of Environment said the province had 10 natural protected resource areas – four national parks, three wildlife sanctuaries, multipurpose areas and biodiversity corridors.

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