The Cambodian Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) organised a training course for nine locals in Pu Char and Pu Kong villages, Sre Preah commune, in Mondulkiri province last week to teach them how to make handicrafts out of locally grown bamboo to raise their income.
WCS country director Ken Serey Rotha told The Post on Tuesday that the five-day training course was supported by USAID as part of the Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary Conservation Project in operation from last year to 2021.
“The training aims to build capacity within communities located adjacent to the Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary.
“During the training, participants practised crafting items such as kettles, teacups, tissue boxes, pen boxes and smartphone stands that can be sold at markets to increase community income,” he said.
Improving livelihoods in local communities and restoring the bamboo forest at the Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary are two of several components in the Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary Conservation Project.
Serey Rotha said the training was given to nine prominent figures from the area, including one woman. They would then pass on the knowledge to a wider number of people across nearby villages.
“It was an honour to have a Banong ethnic woman participating in the training because usually, due to the indigenous people’s customs, she would not be allowed to join with the men.
“We hope, with Banong setting an example, we can get other ethnic women to participate in the future,” said Serey Rotha.
He said that local people in around 20 villages will benefit from the project and that upon completion of the training, the new skills learnt will allow them to sell handicraft products in markets, restaurants and other tourist resorts.
“The bamboo handicrafts that people make are from existing bamboo in the community.
“We have advised them to expand their bamboo cultivation so that they do not rely solely on natural bamboo.
“We want people to create community bamboo farms for making such products,” he said.
Serey Rotha said the project will enable people to change their behaviour from relying on natural resources and nomadic farming which causes deforestation and instead begin to use handicraft production as a means of earning a sustainable income.
Ngeub Luonh, the deputy chief of the Sre Preah bamboo group in Pu Char village, said after the training, the villagers could produce quality bamboo handicrafts.
“The items we produce, such as a set of cups or a kettle, could be sold at the market for 60,000 riel ($15). Other pieces, such as the tissue and pen boxes can fetch between 5,000 ($1.25) and 6,000 riel ($1.50).
We have also set up craft centres to sell community handicrafts. The people are happy to receive the training because it diversifies their skills and capacity to earn an income beyond just traditional farming.
Ministry of Environment secretary of state and spokesman Neth Pheaktra said his ministry supports community training as a policy to develop local communities and create new occupations.
He said: “It is important that people do not rely solely on forestry products, logging or hunting of wildlife to support their livelihoods.
“Producing handicrafts not only creates extra business for a community but ties in to overall community development,” he said.
The ministry’s policy is to create new businesses and income to relieve people from their past dependency on forestry. In future, we want to increase income for the community while protecting our environment,” he said.