UNDP and Global Environment Facility on Monday launched a new project worth over US$3.8 million to help Cambodia preserve its forests to benefit the rural poor as well as to contribute to reducing emission of green house gases into atmosphere.
The “Sustainable Forest Management” project targets four Cambodian provinces: Kampong Speu, Kampong Chhnang, Pursat and Battambang. They are home to forests that have globally significant biodiversity and can also act as major carbon reserves.
The project, implemented by Cambodia’s Forestry Administration, is funded by grants of US$2,363,635 from GEF and US$1,500,000 from UNDP. It will be carried out through community forestry activities to engage rural communities in nature conservation and create markets for sustainable bio-energy technologies to help curb global warming.
H.E. Chheng Kimsun, Delegate of the Royal Government and Head of Forestry Administration, said the project is in line with the National Forest Programme where decentralized forest management through community forestry and community protected areas is a key focus.
“We at the Forestry Administration cannot do this alone,” he said in his speech at the launch of the project. “Anyone can get involved, especially local communities living near the forests who depend on non-timber forest products to generate incomes to support their families.
The government is aiming to establish 2 million hectares of community forestry sites throughout the country by 2029. Currently there are 430 community forestry sites covering some 400,000 hectares of forest areas, about one-fifths of the overall target.
“Efforts by all involved in developing community forestry sites so far are greatly appreciated. It is not an easy process and requires a great deal of diligence and coordination,” H.E. Chheng Kimsun said.
Forest cover in Cambodia is currently estimated to be at 57 percent which is among the highest in the region. However, forests are facing constant threat from logging, fuel wooddependency and lack of alternative energy sources, clearance for agriculture, weak forest sector governance and economic and social land concessions.
To help prevent further forest degradation, the project, running through February 2015, will work, among other activities, to establish and manage forest-based businesses in approximately 30 community forests and 10 community protected areas. Villagers, women in particular, will receive training in production of energy efficient cook stoves to generate incomes and help reduce consumption of firewood.
Forest resources contribute from 30 to 40 percent of total household livelihood of the rural people living near the forests. Although it is not a major green house gases emitter, Cambodia has high vulnerability to impacts of climate change due to limited ability and resources to adapt to the changing weather. Public awareness of the issue also remains low.
“The launch of this project confirms our shared concern and commitment to address forest degradation and improve sustainable forest management in Cambodia,” Sophie Baranes, UNDP Cambodia’s Deputy Country Director for Progamme, said in her remarks at the launching ceremony.
She added that, amid the increasing impact of climate change and the loss of biodiversity, the United Nations General Assembly declared 2011 as the International Year of Forests to raise awareness on sustainable forest management. In Cambodia, she said, this emphasizes how proper forest management can contribute to reducing poverty and helping the government to achieve one of the main Cambodia Millennium Development Goals to maintain 60 percent forest cover.