Forest protection

Deforestation has always been a problem in Cambodia since the 1970s, and it has aggravated in​the last decade. Some protected areas have been deforested. Between 2001 and 2018, Cambodia had lost 557,000 hectares (11.7%) of forest cover in protected areas.1 This loss has had an impact on biodiversity protection and negative social and economic impact on indigenous peoples who rely on the mother nature.2 Therefore, the government and various Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) are working on forest protection in Cambodia.3

Community Forest Patrol Captures Illegal Chainsaws. Photo by USAID Biodiversity & Forestry, taken on 29 August 2008. Under the license CC BY-NC 2.0.

Government controls

According to Law on Forestry 2002, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) is responsible for classifying and registering defined boundaries for all forests within the permanent forest estate (PFE).4 Many PFE boundaries have been determined through the previous logging concessions, protected areas, protected forests, conservation areas, and community areas.5

The MAFF and the Ministry of Environment (MoE) play the main role involved in the timber-supply system in Cambodia. The Forestry Administration (FA) under the MAFF, is in charge of managing forests and forest resources under the National Forestry Sector Policy and Law on Forestry (2002). It also implements the National Forest Programme (NFP) including community forestry. The MoE is accountable for the supervision of the country’s protected areas regulation. The MAFF, the Ministry of Commerce, the FA, and the General Department of Customs and Excise of Cambodia are responsible for licensing and controlling timber products trading.6

Protected areas managed by the MoE

The Royal Government of Cambodia divides the natural protected areas into marine national park, natural heritage site, wildlife sanctuary, Ramsar site, protected landscape, national park, multiple use management area, and biosphere reserve.7

The General Department of Administration for Nature Conservation and Protection under the MoE is entrusted to manage approximately 3.2 hectares of protected areas including flooded forests and mangroves.8 The Law on the Natural Protected Areas (2008) divided the protected area into four zones: core zone, conservation zone, sustainable use zone, and community zone.9 The ministry determine the zones within each protected area and looks for external assistance to define them based on the scientific approach since it lacks internal resources. However, the ministry has established economic land concessions (ELCs) in regions that are not classified as core or conservation zones.10

Interactive map of Natural Protected Areas (NPA) in Cambodia, established by the RGC since 1993

Protected areas managed by the FA

The obligation of the FA under the Law on Forestry (2002)11 does not include protected areas under the jurisdiction of the MoE under the Law on Environmental Protection and Management of Natural Resources (1996).12

Community forestry

Local communities maintain the community forests with the assistance of the FA. To safeguard land use rights, the communities collaborate with the FA to develop the community forest management plans within forest areas near the community.13 According to Sub-decree No. 79 on Community Forestry Management, Article 12 stated that a community has the right to plant, manage, harvest, and sell forest products and non-timber forest products (NTFPs) as outlined in a Community Forest Management Plan.14 There are 492 community forests (410,386 hectares), and 345 communities have signed community forests agreement which is equivalent to 308, 561 hectares.15

National Forest Programme (NFP) (2010-2029)

The National Forest Programme (NFP) was launched in 2010 with the nine strategic objectives as the following:

  • Maximize the contribution of sustainable forests to poverty alleviation, improved livelihoods, and fair economic growth.
  • Adapt to climate change and lessen its impact on forest-based livelihoods
  • Macro land-use planning enables comprehensive planning across sectors, jurisdictions, and local government boundaries
  • Forest governance, legality, and enforcement at all levels
  • Create a conflict resolution mechanism
  • Raise awareness, institutional capacity, and educational quality to facilitate the NFP's long-term implementation
  • Maintain environmental preservation and forest resource conservation
  • Apply current sustainable management models that are adaptable to changing circumstances.
  • Create long-term finance arrangements.16

The NFP 2010-2029 consists of six programmes including:

  • Forest demarcation, classification, and registration
  • Conservation and development of forest resource and biodiversity
  • Forest law enforcement and governance
  • Community forestry programme
  • Capacity and research development
  • Sustainable forest financing.17

There are several challenges to maintaining forests in a sustainable manner related to:

  • Forest contribution to poverty alleviation, livelihoods, and economy
  • Climate change will affect forest-based livelihoods
  • Sectoral land-use planning
  • Illegal activities and weak collaboration
  • Forest conflicts
  • Limited capacity and knowledge
  • Forest degradation
  • Suitability of management models.18

Sustainable Forest Management (SFM)

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 project is implemented at the central level and in Battambang, Pursat, Kampong Chhnang, and Kampong Speu Provinces covering 2 million hectares of forest in Cambodia.19

Community-based forest management (CBFM)

This project encourages communities to take an active role in managing their forests, improve sustainable forest management practices for the conservation of locally and globally valued ecosystems, support forest-dependent livelihoods for their economic and cultural value, and promote political development through participation in democratic processes.20

Cambodia has started CBF since the 1990s by NGOs with the support of the government. The community-based forest (CBF) is the potential management for achieving sustainable forest management while improving local livelihoods significantly. The idea underpinning the transfer of management rights to communities and stakeholders via CBF is that it will result in sustainable forest management and improvements in value environmental, social, and economic outcomes at the local level. CBF sites expanded from 499 sites covering 910 villages in 2015 to 636 sites covering 437,255 hectares by July 2019.21

Community Protected Areas (CPA)

CPAs are established to provide chances for local communities to contribute to the protection of natural resources, to provide easy access to government institutions to improve livelihoods, local economy, and legal framework for local communities, and to contribute to the implementation of the government's policy of decentralization and collaboration.22

The CPAs can be organized in the following ways:

  • Zoning: a protected area may be classified into four zones as mentioned in Law on the Natural Protected Areas (2008).23
  • Participatory land use planning process: divides the area into agricultural land, residential land, community protected areas, and conservation land.
  • Authority: some forests or fisheries within protected areas are assigned to the local community to manage and coordinate.
  • Sustainable livelihood development: local communities do not have to rely just on natural resources, but also establish alternate forms of income.24

Four CPAs were formed in 1999 with the assistance and sponsorship of the Department of Nature Conservation and Protection (DNCP) and the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA). In addition, 41 CPAs were assisted by various agencies between 2000 and 2002. It was the outcome of rising community support and good management of protected areas.25 182 CPAs have been established and recognized by the MoE in 2021.26

Interactive map of Community Protected Areas (CPA), Management Zones of NPA and Community Forests in Cambodia

National Anti-Deforestation Committee (NADC)

The Royal Government of Cambodia issued a declaration on the establishment of the National Anti-Deforestation Committee (NADC) which involved various participants from the military, MoE, MAFF, and provincial governments on 07 December 2016. The committee has the following duties:

  • To prevent and suppress natural resource crimes including deforestation, illegal timber transportation and exports, wildlife capture and illegal wildlife exports, encroachment on state land, and illegal mining across the country
  • Investigate and search for perpetrators and stakeholders and activities of natural resource crimes
  • Arrest the perpetrators and collect evidence of the crimes and prepare the case sending to the court according to the procedure
  • To cooperate with Vietnam, Thailand, and Laos to prevent and suppress natural resource crimes effectively if necessary
  • To report on the results of work to the Royal Government
  • To perform other duties assigned by the Royal Government.27

Related to Forest Protection


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