OXFAM Cambodia, which has been working on natural resource protection with residents of the Stung Treng tourism community, have called on people to visit eco-tourism sites along the Mekong River, saying it would contribute to improving community life and partly reduce natural resource crimes.
The call came at a June 23 press conference on the wrap-up of “Along the Mekong with Sai” – a campaign launched by Oxfam and led by celebrity environment activist Uon Pakthom, a Cambodian singer and performer better known as Sai who has been appointed as its goodwill ambassador.
The campaign ran from March until June, and aimed to promote natural ecotourism areas in order to improve the livelihoods of vulnerable communities along the Mekong. They are affected by changes in water flow and rising threats to food security.
Oxfam country director Phean Sophoan Phean said the campaign raised awareness of the richness of the Mekong River Basin and its importance to the lives of millions of Mekong citizens. The press conference included a sharing session by the indigenous community, the main target of the project.
“Even though the campaign is over, the mission to protect the Mekong River and improve the livelihood of our people continues,” she said.
Sai said that in the 10 days he travelled along the Mekong River, he had the opportunity to understand the richness of the river and community life, especially among the vulnerable indigenous communities whose culture is so interwoven with the river and forest.
He said he had learned about a decrease in fish stocks they had told him that their farming was not producing good yields.
“I urge all citizens, especially the young, to visit these communities. It will generate much-needed incomes at a time when they are not only facing the Covid-19 situation, but also climate change, declining fish production and agricultural issues,” he said.
Bun Samphan, president of the Samros Koh Han Ecotourism Community in Stung Treng, said many people are struggling with crop production.
“In the past, we grew grow corn and soybeans, but we can no longer grow them. Even small family plots aren’t growing well because of the reduced water flow. It may be something to do with the construction of large-scale hydro power dams upriver,” she said.
She said the traditional occupations in her area were fishing and farming, but as those had declined, the community was now turning to ecotourism.
“The people in the area will try to preserve the natural beauty that remains here, in the hope that it will attract visitors,” she said.
The “Along the Mekong with Sai” campaign was made in the northern part of Cambodia, and passed through Ratanakkiri, Stung Treng and Kratie provinces. It included a 10-day boat trip to capture photos and videos and explore the importance of the river.
A video made as part of the campaign was selected for screening during the biggest film festival in Cambodia as part of the Mekong Discovery programme.