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WWF unveils bid to help Mondulkiri forests

A woman sells honey to customers at her community-run business in Mondulkiri’s Pech Chreada district
A woman sells honey to customers at her community-run business in Mondulkiri’s Pech Chreada district. PHOTO SUPPLIED

WWF unveils bid to help Mondulkiri forests

In the latest bid to protect Mondulkiri’s ravaged forests, World Wildlife Fund is rolling out a new project designed to give locals financial incentives to help preserve Mondulkiri Protected Forest and Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary.

Cultivating small-scale, community-run businesses such as resin tree tapping and beekeeping is how WWF-Cambodia hopes to develop a sustainable model of land management in Mondulkiri by 2017, WWF-Cambodia conservation manager Thibault Ledecq said yesterday.

“WWF is already working with 10 community entrepreneurs that sell and harvest honey, resin and bamboo as a way of promoting sustainable resource use by locals, many of them being ethnic minorities,” he said.

Pairing private businesses with community vendors is key to sustaining a long-term “win-win situation” for the people reliant on the protected forest areas and conserva-tionist groups, Ledecq added.

“Local forest-based communities have to be seen as both a challenge and an opportunity. They tend to put pressure on forest resources if they have no incentives to protect and sustainably manage them,” he said.

“But within the right frameworks and with strong benefits in place, villagers can be very effective guardians of their forests.”

Connecting government institutions, civil society groups and the private sector will be vital to protecting the future of the province’s forests, according to Chhith Sam Ath, WWF-Cambodia’s country director.

“Through this project, WWF is confident that biodiversity and natural capital will be seen as an asset and not as an obstacle to socio-economic development,” Sam Ath said.

Pech Chreada district chief Keounh Ratha said that linking money-making and sustainable land management was an important step.

“The community really wants to see sustainable management of the forests and their livelihoods improved through farming and resin processing,” Ratha said.

“If their livelihoods are improved, they will use the forests sustainably, which will help conservation efforts. Local development is needed to provide the community with opportunities for income,” he said.

Local authorities will assist WWF-Cambodia with the project, which is funded by the European Union, said Choeng Sochantha, a provincial administration director.

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