Keo Socheat, executive director of the Sansom Mlup Prey Organisation (SMP), said that more than 2,000 farming households are now planting organic paddy rice through the IBIS project.

Last year, 1,500 households were part of the project, which operates in four provinces: Preah Vihear, Stung Treng, Ratanakkiri and Mondulkiri. The project supports chemical-free paddy rice production, forest conservation and wildlife protection.

Socheat told The Post that planting will begin in June in several wildlife sanctuaries across the four provinces.

He explained that planting organic rice saves wildlife as it does not use pesticides or chemical fertilisers.

He said that member families had to agree to curtail activities like hunting or clearing forest land, and could be removed from the scheme if they repeatedly breached the agreement.

“In general, about ten per cent of new members make these kinds of mistakes,” he added.

“If we did not implement these conditions, they could benefit from the project, but continue to commit forest crimes,” he said.

He added that the IBIS project produced world-class organic rice which improves the livelihoods of the participants because it is purchased at a higher-than-market price.

Doung Taingkou, project coordinator for Sansom Mlup Prey in Preah Vihear, said that 80 families have joined the IBIS project in his area. More families would like to participate, but lack arable land.

“Members of the project receive guidance on maintaining and increasing soil fertility, planting cover crops, composting, rice seed preparation, and how to grow organic rice. The benefits include a clear market and high prices, the protection of forests and wildlife, and climate change mitigation,” he added.

“I have worked with some of these families for about five years. They no longer fell trees or set traps and snares in the forest. The more people who join the project the better the future sustainability of forest and wildlife conservation will be,” he said.

IBIS farmer selection will be completed by the end of May. Families who are interested in participating should contact their nearest project coordinator to learn more about the programme.