The US Agency for International Development (USAID) has announced a new environmental initiative valued at over $20 million. The project aims to protect and conserve biodiversity and natural resources across four provinces in Cambodia.

The five-year, $24 million USAID Conserve initiative will focus on Preah Vihear, Kampong Thom, Stung Treng and Kratie provinces. The project’s objectives include supporting biodiversity conservation, safeguarding vital ecosystems and enhancing the livelihoods of the people, according to a December 4 press release.

The USAID stated that the conservation effort will maintain the agency’s approach of providing direct funding to local communities. This includes continuing aid amounting to $8 million in small grants to at least 250 local villages, organisations and the private sector.

The agency will broaden its support for successful forest carbon financing projects, aiding blue carbon development initiatives in the country’s flooded forests and coastal regions, aimed at conserving these ecosystems.

Kerry Pelzman, mission director at USAID, stated that the initiative reflects the agency’s commitment to localising development assistance. 

“Through this project, we will support community-led efforts to create local jobs through sustainable natural resource use and the utilisation of private capital for long-term climate crisis solutions,” she said.

She also noted that the strategy aligns with the country’s ambition to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

The press release also highlighted that the project will initiate a campaign to alter social attitudes at various administrative levels. The effort will concentrate on combating illegal wildlife trafficking.

Nop Vuthy, deputy governor of Preah Vihear province, expressed his appreciation on December 5 for USAID’s continued support in protecting the country’s natural resources, including the province, which will benefit from the new programme. 

He said environmental officials are collaborating with other relevant organisations to delineate roles and responsibilities for natural resource conservation in the province.

“Now, as we focus on environmental care, this project aligns with the reform policies of the seventh-mandate government. Our Preah Vihear province, being rich in forests, offers the potential to sell carbon credits to other countries,” he said.

He added that the new initiative could significantly benefit the people of the province by attracting tourists to experience the region’s rich biodiversity.

USAID Conserve will be led by Tetra Tech, an international development NGO, in partnership with organisations including the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Cambodia and Conservation International (CI) Cambodia.