In a bid to bolster local economies, manage natural resources and create job opportunities, the Ministry of Environment has unveiled its 2024-28 Strategic Plan for Developing Local Communities, with a primary focus on advancing ecotourism. 

“This strategic plan marks another milestone for the ministry. It is dedicated to uplifting living standards in local communities. This initiative seeks to advance sustainable tourism and engage the private sector, envisioning a carbon-neutral community by 2050,” said minister Eang Sophalleth, at the January 29 launch of the plan.

To guarantee the plan’s success, the minister encouraged the ministry’s General Department of Local Communities to bolster cooperation, support and infrastructure. Its focus lies in fortifying the capacity and networks of local communities, alongside refining and enhancing plant nurseries.

He added that another key priority is the ongoing encouragement of private sector partners and institutions which are involved in renewable energy. The ministry also seeks active participation from experts in agriculture, animal husbandry, handicrafts, food processing, art, music, machinery repair and other pertinent fields.

Heng Kimhong, research and advocacy programme manager at the Cambodian Youth Network (CYN), said he viewed these priorities as necessary and positive steps towards enhancing the livelihoods of local communities. 

However, he suggested that the ministry should explore practices which will mitigate conflicts between local communities, as well as ensuring the consistent performance of its officials. 

“Officials occasionally have varying interpretations of practices. Hence, it is necessary to introduce additional policies for implementation in specific areas. The ministry must ensure that local authorities derive benefits from the plan’s implementation,” he said. 

During the ceremony, Sophalleth also advised environment officials to refrain from purchasing seedlings. Instead, he encouraged them to maintain their own nurseries, noting that this will promote a sense of ownership. It will also demonstrate the importance of creatively using regional assets, as well as national budget allocations.

“Our officials are not in the business of trading trees; instead, they are dedicated growers, cultivating saplings for the benefit of the people,” he said. 

He added that growing saplings for distribution to the public sets a positive example for people to follow. It also reflects the genuine commitment of officials to foster an environmentally friendly ethos.