Environment Ministry officials, NGOs and local communities are appealing to the public to support the local forest industry in order to lift impoverished families out of poverty.
Speaking at the Second National Forum on Non-Timber Forest Products yesterday, E Vuthy, deputy secretary-general of the Environment Ministry’s National Council for Sustainable Development, said non-timber forest producing groups and associations are important contributors to social protection.
According to Mr Vuthy, 68 percent of rural households across the Kingdom rely on forest resources to support their livelihood.
“Aside from collecting root crops, fruits and vegetables, local communities sustainably harvest forest honey, rattan, bamboo, resin and other plants for processing and selling,” he said. “Please support local forest products in order to support their livelihood.”
Mr Vuthy noted that the National Forest Programme for 2010-2029 aims to increase employment through sustainable forest activities, including collecting and processing non-timber products to enable citizens living in rural areas to participate in economic activities.
“The national programme also supports the development of viable small and medium scale rural enterprises that add value to forest products and make direct contributions toward self-sustained community forest management models,” he said.
Femy Pinto, executive director of the Non-Timber Forest Products-Exchange Programme, said there is a growing appreciation for the importance of non-timber forest products made by rural households.
Ms Pinto added that the production of local forest products can play a key role in conservation and poverty eradication goals.
However, she noted that there are concerns about the potential impact of the collection of non-timber forest products on biodiversity.
“Cambodia’s natural resources have been increasingly used in unsustainable ways due to short-term gains, such as illegal logging, wildlife trade, illegal fishing, conversions of forests to economic land concessions for crop plantations, and the destruction of forests for mineral exploitations, among others,” Ms Pinto said.
According to a joint press release, the government and local NGOs, including NTFP-EP, have supported more than 60 local community enterprises in the provinces of Kratie, Stung Treng, Mondulkiri, Ratanakri, Preah Vihear, Koh Kong and Siem Reap.
It said that last year, local community enterprises benefited from 379,897 hectares of forest and fishery sources in the seven provinces.
It noted that NTFP-EP also supports NatureWild, a national intermediary whose role is supporting local product distribution to markets in the country.
The press release said the 60 local enterprises were able to net $66,898 last year and $78,182 in 2017, while all local enterprises across the Kingdom have been able to net a total of $1.5 million.
“The forest sector saw a significant contribution […], which is estimated at $1.5 million,” it said.
It noted that in order to scale-up production and increase entrepreneurship, local community producers must be empowered to compete in larger markets.
It also noted that community management capacity building is important to ensure compliance with standards and protocols.
Phon Samoeun, a local producer from a community in Kratie, said her family relies on forest products.
Ms Samoeun said members of her family have no skills, other than handicraft, which was handed down from generation to generation.
“We look for forest honey, rattan, bamboo and resin so they can be sold,” she said. “It helps with income. Only with support from buyers can this practice continue.”