Twelve of 19 representatives from protected areas in the Phnom Prich, Srepok and Keo Seima wildlife sanctuaries in Mondulkiri province – consisting of nearly 13,000 people – signed an agreement with the Ministry of Environment on the sustainable management of natural resources.
The agreement was inked on Thursday in Sok San commune, Koh Nhek district, in the presence of more than 500 officials from the ministry, its provincial department, local authorities and partner organisations.
Ministry secretary of state Mom Thany said at the signing that the agreement recognised 12 communities covering 44,139ha of forestland. These communities have 12,804 residents, of which 46 per cent are women and girls.
Community members will be entitled to legally own and manage their communities’ natural resources sustainably.
“The ministry supports and actively participates with other relevant institutions and communities that organise and implement natural resource conservation across the Kingdom,” said Thany.
She said local communities are a driving force that actively contribute to the sustainable management of natural resources, as residents in and around natural protected areas directly rely on such resources to sustain their livelihoods.
Mondulkiri provincial governor Chhim Kan said the province had abundant forest resources and rich biodiversity. He said it is mainly animals in wildlife sanctuaries, such as bantengs, leopards, Asian elephants, gaurs, fallow deer, peacocks and giant conches, that fall prey to poachers.
Kan said communities could organise and implement natural resource management initiatives that leverage forest products and ecotourism. Community members could also collaborate with law enforcement officials in patrolling the forests and stopping offenders.
“We must join hands to protect valuable natural resources. The local communities are the heart of this collaboration,” he said.
Head of the Trapaing Ka’orm protected area Broy Kveuk said that in a year, each of the 19 communities could generate $14,600 from forest produce such as honey, resin, vegetables, mushrooms and fruits.
“Forest resources have always been important to community residents. We have always patrolled regularly. There currently are 577 community patrol members participating actively in protecting the forests in the Phnom Prich and Srepok wildlife sanctuaries,” said Kveuk.
World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Cambodia country director Seng Teak said the organisation had supported and collaborated with ministry officials and partner organisations to help fortify natural protected areas.
Officials help them to stop forest crimes, build structures, assess the cost of resources, mark boundaries and prepare management plans for implementation.
“The main aim of establishing protected areas is to help strengthen and improve the effectiveness of preserving forest resources and biodiversity, and acknowledging the rights and roles of owners in managing shared community resources sustainably and responsibly,” said Teak.