Mean Rith is an isolated commune in Kampong Thom province. The forest around the commune is part of the Prey Lang Landscape and has been providing livelihoods for many local communities, providing food, traditional medicine, and cash.
However, these important forests are increasingly under threat. Large scale agribusiness plantations and mining operations resulted in illegal logging and the disappearance of important wildlife from the area. More than 250,000 resin trees fell prey to illegal logging, trees which are vital sources of income for local communities. These illegal activities have been mostly carried out by powerful people and migrants from other provinces.
In 2009, people in Mean Rith commune called for support from government and NGOs to protect the remaining forest areas. In 2013, their efforts were recognized: Ou Kranhung Community Forestry covering 1,131 hectares of land was created and signed between Forestry Administration Cantonment and Community Forestry Management Committee.
Even so, a lack of critical skills, knowledge of management, and assistance from diverse stakeholders, remain threats for those villagers to fight against deforestation. To reverse the trend and assist communities to sustainably manage forest resources, USAID’s Supporting Forests and Biodiversity Project implemented by Winrock International through Mlup Baitong assisted the communities to establish a sustainable community environment and livelihood improvement. In addition, the project helped them develop a community forestry management plan and to improve their forest patrolling strategy and actions. This resulted in improved forest management and increased participation among local communities in forest patrolling and planning.
“We are very happy that our forests are protected for this and next generations. And, more villagers are aware of the importance of forest protection and work together to stop deforestation,” said Mr. Chea Duon, the chairman of Ou Kranhung Community Forestry.
The Ou Kranhung CF site is sharing their success of self-support with other CF sites in their commune. MB is planning to replicate this concept in other CFs to empower them to build up their capacities and capital to sustain their activities after the phase-out of the project.