The UN Development Programme (UNDP) announced yesterday that Sweden will contribute about $500,000 to its joint conservation efforts with the Environment Ministry in Pursat and Siem Reap provinces to support tree planting activities, the establishment of plant nurseries and a “cash-for-work” initiative.
The contribution is part of the embassy’s efforts to discourage families affected economically by COVID-19 from cutting trees and hunting animals to survive.
The COVID-19 response- package will financially support 1,600 rural households in the provinces.
“Sweden and UNDP are committed to giving Cambodia our full support during this pandemic. This tree planting programme provides cash-for-work at a time when it’s needed most. By investing in forest cover we can contribute towards a cleaner greener future for everyone,” said Nick Beresford, UNDP’s Resident Representative.
Ministry of Environment Secretary of State, Tin Ponlok said: “This cash-for-work programme is a timely and much-needed intervention to simultaneously address the urgent needs of COVID-19 affected rural communities and the need to restore important ecosystems that are under pressure.”
The planting activities come after concerns that COVID-19 is causing ecosystem degradation as unemployed residents return home to cut more trees, hunt wild animals and fish in their local communities as a method to cope with their declining livelihoods, the UNDP said.
It quoted Björn Häggmark, Ambassador of Sweden to Cambodia as saying: “It is important to mitigate the consequences of the pandemic. Sweden’s support to an immediate relief package, equivalent to almost $500,000, will contribute to this.”
He said: “It will quickly offer the most vulnerable communities income generation opportunities for tree planting to help them cope with the economic crisis. It will also contribute to the restoration of vital ecosystems.”
Across Cambodia, tens of thousands of people have lost their jobs and over 100,000 migrant Cambodians have returned from neighbouring countries to their hometowns in rural areas, resulting in the depletion of fragile natural resources of forests and biodiversity, the UNDP said.
The ambassador said that the initiative will run until June 2021, providing immediate employment opportunities for communities that have the greatest need through initial tree planting activities. The project will nurture these seedlings during the dry season and support another round of tree planting activity in May and June 2021.
This initiative is led by the Ministry of Environment with technical support from the UNDP under the Building an Enabling Environment for Sustainable Development project.