Tens of thousands of rural Cambodians have been empowered to exercise their rights to manage, protect and benefit from local natural resources thanks to an eight-year initiative with the Partnership for Forestry and Fishery Communities in Cambodia (PaFF), according to their press release.
The third and final phase of PaFF was launched on August 19, with $6.2 million in funding from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.
The third phase focuses on building capacity in communities and government agencies to implement three approaches to sustainable natural resource management including community forestry, community fisheries and community-protected areas.
The programme also seeks to strengthen democratic processes, promote the rule of law, and safeguard the human rights of women, indigenous groups, and low-income community members through their engagement in community based natural resource management, according to the statement.
PaFF would continue to be implemented in Kratie, Stung Treng, Kampong Thom and Preah Vihear provinces by four partners: Regional Community Forestry Training Centre (RECOFTC), Non-Timber Forest Products Exchange Programme Asia, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-Cambodia) and the Culture and Environment Preservation Association.
It supports communities that are formalising their tenure over local forest and fisheries resources, engaging with authorities, implementing management plans, improving production practices and provides greater access to finance.
According to the group, the programme supported some 44,600 people who depend on community forests and fisheries for their livelihoods during its first two phases from November 2014 to June this year.
It helped 60 communities to formalise their rights over local forests and fisheries, and supported 134 communities in the development and implementation of management plans for these resources.
Seng Teak, country director of WWF-Cambodia, which led the implementation of PaFF’s Phase 2 between 2017 and 2021, said empowering communities by strengthening the capacity and resources they need to make decisions about, manage and use their natural resources should be the way forward.
“In doing so, we promote local ownership and support long-lasting livelihood development and biodiversity conservation,” he said.
The programme, which is set to end in June 2023, aims to support the implementation of management plans for 113 community forests, 24 community fisheries and five community protected areas totalling 159,767ha and benefitting 60,926 people in 24,647 households.
RECOFTC country director Hou Kalyan said that when the communities have secure rights over their natural resources, those resources can be managed in a more transparent, fair, accountable and equitable way, leading to long-term sustainability.
“Ultimately, PaFF will benefit tens of thousands of rural Cambodians in line with the government’s policy goals, including international commitments on climate change and biodiversity and progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals,” she said.