Through the Southern Cardamoms REDD+ project, Wildlife Alliance and the Ministry of Environment have helped more than 2,000 Koh Kong Indigenous people and local community families with sustainable livelihoods, access to clean water, roads and toilets, and even college education.

All these benefits were developed in response to the requests and inputs of villagers living in rural Koh Kong province.

“REDD+” stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, and the Southern Cardamom REDD+ Project has been led by the Ministry of Environment and implemented by Wildlife Alliance since 2015.

The project generates revenue from carbon credit sales, a large portion of which is used to finance benefits for local communities as well as environmental conservation.

Where villagers previously had to walk more than five kilometres to reach a dirty pond for water, 94 solar-powered water wells now provide convenient access to clean water for over 1,800 families.

Five different roads of five kilometres and longer have been built to improve access to markets for isolated villages. Sanitation has also been improved, with 74 toilets installed across the province.

A school has been built for primary students, and 16 students from poor or orphaned families have received full scholarships to attend university in Phnom Penh.

Almost 500 families now have sustainable livelihoods through community-based eco-tourism, so they don’t have to depend on the forest for income.

Before projects like these are implemented, Wildlife Alliance conducts a comprehensive series of community consultation meetings and surveys to understand the needs of the villagers, receive suggestions and solicit requests for infrastructure and livelihoods projects.

After a plan is developed in coordination with Indigenous people and members of local communities and local authorities, the consent of families is submitted through the village chief before a project begins.

Grievance Boxes are also installed in designated neutral and easily accessible areas such as a commune hall or village chief’s house, into which Indigenous people and members of local communities can drop their concerns, complaints and suggestions following the project Feedback and Grievance Redress procedure in place.

“Thanks to the Southern Cardamom REDD+ project, a committee was formed, and we are now provided with clean water facilities directly to our houses through a water well.

"The committee is to make sure that the water is sparingly used so all the families can benefit from the facility.

"Now we need to continue protecting our Cardamom forests so the water source is maintained," said Si Sitha from Koh Kong's Chi Phat commune.

Tith Sour, one of the scholarship students from the Chong Indigenous people in the province's Chhay Areng Valley, also hailed the positive impacts brought by the project.

“Getting access to education, especially through the REDD+ Bachelor's degree scholarship, has helped me develop my ability to have a clear career path to benefit myself and my family in the future," Sour said.