The UN Development Programme (UNDP) launched a “Sustainable Charcoal Digital Platform” on Monday to help the government address environmental issues from rampant coal production.
The platform will also support charcoal-producing communities as demand for its use has increasingly grown in the Kingdom.
Nearly 100 people including government officials, civil society organisations and community members attended the launch.
The UNDP said the demand for fuelwood, including firewood and charcoal, had increasingly grown in Cambodia, wherein “about 0.8 million tonnes of firewood is used in the garment and brick-making industry and 1.8 million tonnes for household cooking”.
Another 3.5 million tonnes, it said, is used for cooking in households and restaurants.
UNDP resident representative Nick Beresford said at the launch: “The annual consumption of fuelwood has now reached about six million tonnes, equivalent to the annual loss of 71,600ha of deciduous forests.
“This is an alarming concern that needs to be addressed not only for the sake of the sustainability of forests but also the human wellbeing.
“This new digital platform can help promote sustainable production and consumption of fuelwood and promote sustainable community forest management.”
Beresford said the platform is a way to see a regulated production and consumption of charcoal.
“Currently, we use phones to call taxis and use other services.
“If we are owners of restaurants and businesses, we can use the e-commerce platform to purchase charcoal.
“This supports the local economy and promotes forest preservation,” he said.
The director of Cambodia’s Forestry Administration, Keo Omalis, said the project would help the government and local communities with producing sustainable charcoal.
“[The project] encourages other communities to plant trees, instead of cutting them down, to supply their charcoal businesses,” he said.
This, he said, would align with the government’s goal of planting trees on two to five hectares a day.
“Timber will be sustainable because our community forests have been well-managed as planned,” he said.
Ton Sarim, the head of the forest community in Pursat province, said that in the past, the community’s charcoal industry had experienced difficulties due to a lack of available supply of timber in the market.
But he expects that the sustainable charcoal digital platform’s launch would help improve livelihoods.
“We have standards regarding which kinds of timber can be used to produce charcoal. We remove the deformed and rotten ones. If the programme can help the community produce charcoal, and there’s a sufficient supply in the market with acceptable prices, I’ll be very happy,” Sarim said.