Cambodia is struggling to safeguard its forests while preserving economic growth since many people make a living via farming, logging, and other activities that might lead to deforestation. Almost 80% of Cambodians living in rural regions rely on forests for survival. On the other hand, deforestation threatens Cambodia’s forests and livelihoods.1 To address the issue, consideration is being given to the empowerment of forest communities, government officials, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), business interests, and communities for sustainable forest management. Various forest protection NGOs and programs have been implemented in Cambodia. The Cambodia National Forest Programme (NFP) was developed to outline Cambodia’s forest strategy from 2010 to 2029. The Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) considers the ecologically, socially, and economically viable conservation and management of forest resources as a major pillar of public welfare directly contributing to environmental protection, poverty reduction, and socio-economic development, according to the vision for Cambodian forests and forestry.2
The Ministry of Environment (MoE) was established in 1993 to stop the decline of the forest. Then the MoE issued a Royal Decree on establishing 23 conservation areas under state control, which cover 31 percent of its forests. Cambodia took greater steps to stop the decline of its forests when the Law on Protected Areas is passed and divided protected areas into four zones, including the core zone, conservation zone, sustainable-use zone, and community zone.3
Cambodia has promoted sustainable forest management as a crucial approach for decreasing GHG emissions and reacting to climate change. The detailed information about REDD+ could be found in Carbon trading and other payments for ecological services (PES). The government is investigating the prospect of extending and piloting REDD+ programs in other protected areas through agreements with international non-governmental organizations (Wildlife Conservation Society, Conservation International) and transnational corporations (MITSUI & CO. LTD.).4 On 11 January 2017, the government signed a US$1.5 million agreement to begin the planning phase of a REDD+ carbon trading project incorporating Prey Lang Sanctuary, the Indochinese peninsula’s biggest surviving lowland evergreen forest and home to about 200,000 indigenous people.5 REDD+ framework allows forested developing nations to earn cash by helping firms or factories to avoid government pollution limitations.6 Indigenous people throughout the world, however, have criticized REDD+ for failing to support the local people who have stewarded these forests and are responsible for their continuous biodiversity.7
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) implemented a Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) project in Kampong Speu, Kampong Chhnang, Pursat, and Battambang Provinces between 2011 and 2015. The project aims to improve SFM by incorporating community-based SFM for community forests (CFs) and community-protected areas (CPAs) into policy, planning, and implementation. The total budget of this project was US$ 9,963,635.9
Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Wildlife Alliance (WA), BirdLife International, Conservation International (CI), Flora and Fauna International (FFI), and the Center for People and Forests (RECOFTC) have all expressed strong support for the RGC’s decision to designate nearly one million hectares of new protected areas in Prey Lang, Kravanh Khang Tbong, Prey Preah Rong, and Prey Veunasai.10
In February 2022, Naturelife Cambodia offered micro-funding of approximately US$5,000 for each community in the Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuary to enable good natural resource management and to encourage community engagement in the sanctuary’s conservation.11
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has implemented 5-years (2012-2018) Supporting Forest and Biodiversity (SFB) project to improve the conservation and governance of forest landscapes in Cambodia to mitigate climate change and conserve biodiversity. The two target areas are Prey Lang Landscape (PLL) (mainly in Kampong Thom, Preah Vihear, Stung Treng, and Kratie) and Eastern Plains Landscapes (30,000 square kilometers, mainly in Mondulkiri Province). The project results in a new 431,683-hectare Prey Land Wildlife Sanctuary, policy reform (forestry and protected area laws, Cambodian environmental code, etc.), improved landscape governance of approximately 1.3 million hectares, enhanced constructive dialogue on natural resource management, increased income from sustainable livelihood, knowledge management and data sharing, increased capacity of government and local organizations, REDD+, and the watershed environmental service.12
Cambodia has received the United States aid for developing different sectors. Through USAID, the United States (US) has committed more than $100 million in initiatives addressing sustainable development, climate change, and wildlife and biodiversity protection in Cambodia. Unlawful logging is, however, still occurring; and Cambodian authorities have not sufficiently pursued wildlife offenses or put a stop to these illegal operations. On 17 June 2021, the US withdrew support from the Greening Prey Lang initiative, which seeks to safeguard the sanctuary from destruction, and shift funds to civil society organizations (CSOs) and communities to conserve the forest.13 The US discontinued all support to the Cambodian government due to the escalating deforestation in Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary. The $21 million projects will now solely finance local groups and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) striving to safeguard the forest.14
Japanese aid provides to Cambodia for sustainable and strategic growth. In March 2018, the Ministry of Environment and Japan signed a $600,000 agreement on forest protection in the Prey Lang Sanctuary. The project focused on forest conservation, legal strengthening, and community forestry development.15
The Law on Forestry (2002) provides a legal basis for communities to use and help manage forests through the community forest.16 Community forestry might be formed as community-based production forest, partnership forestry, community conservation forestry, and community-protected areas (CPA).17 There are 492 community forests (410,386 hectares), and 345 communities have signed a community forests agreement equivalent to 308,561 hectares.18 Cambodia has 168 CPAs, accounting for less than 5% of the country’s protected area system. Implying that community patrols have control over 285,609 hectares, which is only a small part of the 7 million hectares of protected areas that the MoE is obligated to preserve.19
Interactive map of Community Protected Areas (CPA), Management Zones of NPA, and Community Forests in Cambodia
- Environment and natural resources
- Forests and forestry
- Forest policy and administration
- Forest protection
- Protected areas
- Protected forest
- Community forest
- 1. Williamson, Sokchea, and Atkinson, “Local communities move to the frontline of forest protection in Cambodia,” RECOFTC, 03 March 2020, accessed on 06 May 2022.
- 2. MAFF, “National Forest Programme 2010-2029,” 18 October 2010, accessed on 09 May 2022.
- 3. Williamson, Sokchea, and Atkinson, “Local communities move to the frontline of forest protection in Cambodia,” RECOFTC, 03 March 2020, accessed on 06 May 2022.
- 4. Keo Piseth, “Cambodia promotes sustainable forest management for climate response,” Khmer Time, 18 January 2022, accessed on 09 May 2022.
- 5. Cultural and Survival, “Cambodia: Communities key to forest conservation,” 26 January 2017, accessed on 06 May 2022.
- 6. “National REDD+ Strategy 2017-2026,” 08 December 2017, accessed on 09 May 2022.
- 7. Cultural and Survival, “Cambodia: Communities key to forest conservation,” 26 January 2017, accessed on 06 May 2022.
- 8. ODC, “Forest protection NGOs,” 27 December 2017, accessed on 09 May 2022.
- 9. UNDP, “Sustainable Forest Management Project summary,” accessed on 06 May 2022.
- 10. Mengey Eng, “NGOs Support Royal Government of Cambodia to Designate Almost One Million Hectares of New Protected Areas,” WCS, 27 April 2016, accessed on 09 May 2022.
- 11. Voun Dara, “NGO funds new programmes for forest communities,” The Phnom Penh Post, 14 March 2022, accessed on 06 May 2022.
- 12. USAID, “Supporting forests and biodiversity – final report 2012-2018,” accessed on 09 May 2022.
- 13. The US Embassy in Cambodia, “U.S. Embassy Phnom Penh statement on the USAID Greening Prey Lang Funding redirect,” ODC, 17 June 2022, accessed on 16 May 2022.
- 14. Sun Narin, “US Pulls Prey Lang Funding, Redirects Resources to Local Groups,” VOA, 19 June 2021, accessed on 06 May 2022.
- 15. Pech Sotheary, “Japan to aid Prey Lang forest protection,” Khmer Times, 05 March 2018, accessed on 06 May 2022.
- 16. RGC, “Law on Forestry,” 31 August 2002, accessed on 09 May 2022.
- 17. RECIFTC, “Community forestry in Cambodia,” accessed on 09 May 2022.
- 18. “Understanding timber flows and control in Cambodia in the context of FLEGT,” the Global Forestry Services, the Forestry Administration of Cambodia, and the EU FLEGT Facility, 2014, accessed on 09 May 2022.
- 19. Williamson, Sokchea, and Atkinson, “Local communities move to the frontline of forest protection in Cambodia,” RECOFTC, 03 March 2020, accessed on 06 May 2022.