More than 1,000 families living inside and near wildlife sanctuaries in the Kingdom’s northern provinces have seen their livelihood significantly boosted thanks to an NGO-initiated project.
And most of the families have become role models for farmers and natural resource conservationists due to the efforts of the NGO Sansom Mlup Prey.
Its coordinator, Keo Socheat, told The Post on Tuesday that the Wildlife-Friendly Ibis Rice Project, or Ibis Rice, began in 2009 in Preah Vihear province in collaboration with other forest conservation NGOs and associations in the country.
He said the project, which was launched in cooperation with the BirdLife International Cambodia Programme in 2017, has enjoyed much support and participation from local communities living near the Kulen Prum Tep and Chheb wildlife sanctuaries.
So far, the project has also expanded to the western Siem Pang Wildlife Sanctuary in Stung Treng province.
“The Wildlife-Friendly Ibis Rice Project is part of our participation in protecting and conserving forests in wildlife sanctuaries in Cambodia and in improving the livelihood of local communities through organic farming,” he said.
As of mid-June this year, he said more than 1,000 families had participated in the project, more than 600 of whom are in Preah Vihear province and nearly 400 in Stung Treng.
Participants in the project received training on organic farming techniques, which yielded higher quality and higher output and providing them with pure seeds free of charge.
The communities are also provided support and legal assistance in obtaining recognition and securing registration of their farmland with the relevant institutions as most of their farmlands were located in wildlife sanctuaries.
“To improve food security and increase the income of farmers who have participated in our project and to make them participate in conserving wildlife sanctuaries in which they live and rely on for a living, we have helped buy their output at a price that is 10 per cent higher than the market price for the first year.
“We increased this to more than 20-30 per cent in the third year if their outputs are proven to be 100 per cent organic and in compliance with the project’s requirements,” he said.
Bou Vorsak, the director of BirdLife International Cambodia Programme, told The Post on Tuesday that when the Ibis Rice scheme first began in the western Siem Pang Wildlife Sanctuary, only 43 families participated. He said the number has since swelled to 384 families.
“Farmers are required to comply with four main conditions out of the 12 prerequisites, including an agreement to refrain from poaching and logging, encroaching on forest land in wildlife sanctuaries, using all kinds of chemical fertilisers or pesticides,” he said.
Vorsak said that most villagers in the communities who have participated in this project have become role model farmers and wildlife activists in the Siem Pang Wildlife Sanctuary as they have regularly joined local authorities and rangers from the Ministry of Environment to prevent forest crimes.
Siem Pang district governor Phann Yuth told The Post on Tuesday that through this project, forestry crimes including poaching and logging have decreased remarkably, while forest land clearing has been completely eliminated in the western Siem Pang Wildlife Sanctuary.
He said the scheme has helped promote active participation from villagers in local communities in preventing the crimes.
“The livelihoods of our villagers inside and near the wildlife sanctuaries have been boosted with our help and support in growing and harvesting techniques."
“The villagers are provided with good, pure rice seeds for farming, while their outputs can fetch a price that is 10-30 per cent higher than the market price,” he said.
Yuth said the project initiators had recently brought more than six tonnes of Phka Romduol rice seeds for nearly 400 families who have participated in the project for farming in the early rainy season.