Nearly 300 families in the Sre Trob community in the Prey Preah Roka Wildlife Sanctuary in Preah Vihear province continue to make a living from their ancestors’ methods of obtaining wood oil or vital resin to sell, which can earn about $450 a month per family.

The Ministry of Environment considers the communities located in protected areas to have roles and responsibilities to participate in the conservation of natural resources and can receive forest products to increase family income.

Nong Deng, 63, head of the Sre Trob community of Prey Preah Roka Wildlife Sanctuary in Krala Peas village of Choam Ksan district’s Pring Thom commune, said his family is now participating in conserving natural resources and forests with park rangers.

At the same time, environmental officials allowed his family to continue getting vital resin in the Preah Roka Wildlife Sanctuary, which they have been doing since 1999.

He said that today he has just over a thousand vital resin trees that have been preserved for many years and are still available to the Sre Trob community for daily harvesting.

He said more than 300 families live in the community where they continue to engage in the business of harvesting resin – which they learned from their ancestors – on 3,490ha of protected forest land.

“One resin tree can be harvested three times a month, which means we can harvest resin all year round,” said Deng.

“One tree provides two to three litres of resin. They provide the least amount of resin during March and April, which are the hottest months. But by the end of May, the trees will provide more resin,” he said.

According to Deng, today one tree can yield nine to 12 litres of resin per month. Harvesters spend two nights and three days in the forest to harvest and then sell the resin to brokers. Thirty litres of resin can sell for more than 80,000 riel ($20).

He said that in order to remove the resin from trees such as the gum tree, they need to make a hole about 60cm in diameter and light a fire under the hole to make the sap come out.

On June 9, environment ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra visited the community to research the living conditions there as well as to assess the situation in the sanctuary.

He said the ministry, partner organisations and relevant institutions are now jointly protecting and conserving natural resources and contributing to the creation of jobs for the community and preserving traditional cultural heritage, both tangible and intangible, through a policy of creating eco-tourism sites to increase local economy.

According to Pheaktra, vital resin is a traditional occupation of the Cambodian people and of indigenous people, inherited from their ancestors. The resin is extracted from certain trees, such as the gum and Burma Sal trees.

“There are 41 communities in the protected areas in Preah Vihear province. Among these communities, there are always people engaged in the business of collecting resin, because the business provide additional income for community members to support livelihoods,” he said.

Pheaktra said the ministry and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS Cambodia) have worked together to strengthen the protection and conservation of natural resources and also conserve traditional community livelihoods such as resin harvesting and provide new options to the community as well.

“The ministry’s goal is not only to protect the natural resources of the forest and wildlife, but we are also involved in preserving the traditions of the people who live in this community,” he said.

Pheaktra said the ministry is collecting statistics on the people whose occupation involves the production of resin to determine the exact locations, especially of the resin trees in the deep forest.

“When people conserve natural resources, the forest survives. They not only benefit from the resin, but can also benefit from other non-timber forest products such as vegetables, fruits and honey.

“In addition to these businesses, the environment ministry has partnered with WCS to create new businesses, such as Ibis Rice, which can be sold at a higher price to improve the lives of people in the community too,” he said, referring to WCS Cambodia’s wildlife-friendly rice project implemented in Preah Vihear and three other provinces.