A senior agriculture official has clarified that calls to reduce the use of rosewood in furniture will not mean a total ban but rather the adoption of techniques which will contribute to the conservation of the Kingdom’s forests, as the population continues to grow.

Nao Thuok, secretary of state at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, was addressing an October 31 policy forum on reducing the demand for rosewood furniture, hosted by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) as part of its Green Future project.

“We want to reduce its use, rather than prohibit it. A few generations ago, the population was less than half what it is today, and we have to recognise that, by introducing sustainable practices. We are considering a policy of instructing cabinetmakers and joiners to use thinner, non-luxury hardwoods for the structure of furniture and then cover them with a thin veneer of luxury timber,” he said.

Ouk Sisovann, chief of party of Cambodia Green Future, noted that it is a five-year project which began in October 2019 and is funded by USAID.

He explained that the project aimed to provide Cambodians and civil society organisations with the skills to use evidence-based communication systems to drive positive changes in social attitudes and positive action towards biodiversity conservation, forest protection and sustainable natural resource management.

He added that the project focused on working with young people in Phnom Penh and two target areas: Prey Lang and the eastern landscape. With strategic indications on changing relationships and social attitudes, the project’s intervention is focusing on three actions. The first is a reduction in the felling of luxury timber for furniture. The second is to reduce the purchase and consumption of bush meat, with the final goal being to end the widespread dumping of garbage.

“This policy forum is part of Cambodia Green Future Project’s efforts to understand how we can better use evidence-based communication in conjunction with communication campaigns to change social attitudes,” he said.

USAID representative Craig Hart said that forests are an important part of ensuring sustainable economic growth, biodiversity, cultural heritage and living standards.

He added that the globe had a strong reliance on timber. Regardless of where people were found, the demand would be there. However, the global market for rosewood and other luxury hardwoods had grown to such an extent that it contributed to the loss of forests and healthy tree species in Cambodia.

“Our project recognises the role of youth in promoting and managing forests sustainably, protecting forests and the environment. That’s the big concept that we will be discussing,” he said.

He also said that as part of the project, he had visited many regions of the Kingdom, and noted that hardwood furniture was widely available.

“It is important to note that this operation is not about beautiful furniture, but about the sustainability of the forest. There need to be regulations in place that ensure that all of the trees which are planted are guaranteed sustainability,” he said.