Local community engagement in conservation management
In June 2022, the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) and IUCN Regional Implementation Team (RIT) for CEPF in the Indo-Burma Hotspot conducted monitoring visits to CEPF-funded projects in Cambodia.
CEPF and IUCN RIT Project Monitoring
CEPF provides grants to civil society organisations (CSOs) in the Indo-Burma Hotspot to implement projects that conserve and protect biodiversity, build local conservation leadership and nurture sustainable development. CEPF and the RIT monitor the progress of projects via regular reports that are submitted by grantees and by conducting monitoring visits on site where projects are implemented.
Monitoring visits are a way for CEPF and the RIT to see project activities and achievements, hold discussions with key stakeholders, provide support and advice to grantees, and assist them with issues they may be experiencing in implementing their projects.
During the monitoring visits, the grantee provides a complete overview of the project progress to date, which is then followed by a discussion on how to solve any challenges that may have arisen. Following this, the team from CEPF and IUCN RIT seeks to verify deliverables that have been produced during implementation so far and reviews documents to support funds spent by the grantee. The grantee, project partners and visiting team then travel to the site where the project is implemented to see how activities are conducted on the ground.
Civil Society Organisations in Cambodia supporting community engagement in conservation and management of protected areas
CEPF and the RIT visited projects implemented by CSOs in Cambodia such as NatureLife Cambodia and Fisheries Action Coalition Team (FACT), focusing on CEPF Strategic Direction 4 - Empowering local communities to engage in conservation and management of priority sites.
NatureLife Cambodia is working to promote co-management of the Toul Neang Sav Plov Loung Community Protected Area (CPA) in the Tonle Sap Lake, a 1,369-hectare are containing unique areas of flooded forest and grassland habitats important for water birds, mammals and fish species in the protected area.
Several ongoing threats to biodiversity occur in the CPA, including illegal fishing and lotus cultivation. In recent years excessive fishing has led to declines in fish stock critical for local livelihoods and some fish species have disappeared from the waterways of the CPA.
To ensure the protection and conservation of natural resources, fish species, and the ecosystem services, immediate action is needed to reduce these threats and strengthen the governance and management of the CPA.
In this project supported by CEPF to enhance community engagement in protected areas, NatureLife Cambodia has been working to strengthen governance by building the capacity of CPA committee members, rangers and community members to better monitor wildlife and threats.
NatureLife also facilitates collaboration and meetings with the Ramsar Site management authority and fishery committees to maintain strong relations and provide better overall support. Additionally, they improve management of the existing CPA at Stung Sen Ramsar Site by providing regular trainings with rangers to facilitate patrolling efforts and conducting consultations with the communities to seek feedback.
Institutional capacity of the CPA has significantly improved in the last two years. To complement our existing work, NatureLife Cambodia will continue to support the CPA committee to explore and pilot the biodiversity-friendly livelihood activities and increase the involvement of women in CPA governance and management.” - Mr. Bou Vorsak, CEO of NatureLife Cambodia
During the monitoring visit, the RIT and CEPF monitoring team traveled by boat to meet with NatureLife staff, local community members, Ramsar site managers and rangers, project beneficiaries and local authorities to discuss the impact of the project, how the CPA is currently being managed, and learn more about the needs and challenges of the community members. The team was also fortunate to visit fish conservation zones established within the CPA and the forest protected area.
This was a great opportunity for the team to learn more about their work on the ground, while also giving the grantees, project partners and beneficiaries the chance to discuss any associated challenges relating to the project.
The CPA is managed by an elected committee of nine community members, led by Ms. Hun Chengkea who serves as the chair of the committee. Having a female chairperson is quite unusual for a country like Cambodia, but it was a pleasure to see women's involvement in conservation and management practices at the local level.
“It is important that we raise awareness about the need for women and girls to be involved in conservation and management of our CPA. I would like to see more opportunities for women to play an active role in the CPA activities, but we also need to consider how to balance this with their other responsibilities to their families.” – Ms. Hun Chengkea, Chair of the CPA Committee at NatureLife.
Fisheries Action Coalition Team (FACT) is a local civil society organisation that works on fishery issues in Cambodia.
Fishing is one of the most important food sources and income-generating activities for communities who live in floating villages in and around the Tonle Sap Lake. However, illegal fishing is a constant challenge. In 2012, the Royal Government of Cambodia banned all major commercial fishing activities in the Tonle Sap. Despite this fish stocks continue to decline, and one of the leading causes is small scale illegal fishing.
The project supported by CEPF aims to strengthen the capacity of local community fishery committees (CFis) to sustainably conserve and manage fishery resources in four communes within the Tonle Sap Lake.
FACT has facilitated the collaboration of CFis with the local government to improve protection of fish and fishery resources, this includes providing boats and other equipment for the local community to improve patrolling and enforcement of laws and regulations.
In addition, FACT has been conducting regular trainings for committee members to help improve management practices that protect the biodiversity in the CFis and the many ecosystem services that support local communities. These include trainings on roles and responsibilities of community committees, financial management and reporting, gender and climate change, environmental and fisheries law, alternative livelihood (eco-tourism, water hyacinth handicraft, fish processing), action research, fish catch monitoring, and best practices in fisheries resource management.
FACT has also been facilitating the collaboration of CFi committees with members and other sub-national, national, and regional networks to provide greater support for fishery resources. This includes working collectively together to support regular patrols at the established FCAs in the four focal CFis.
As a result of the FACT and CFIs efforts along with relevant stakeholders to protect and conserve the local fishery resources, the fish catch has increased in the focal FCAs per family/per day as the average from 8KG in 2020 increased to 22.62 in July 2022. Consequently, the income from the fish catch has also improved per family/per day, as the average from 11 USD has increased to 15.51 USD.
The efforts of the CFi committee and communities, with support from FACT and local government, have resulted in very positive changes. Based on our catch monitoring, there has been a noticeable increase in fish stocks in areas outside of the fish conservation zones. This suggests that increasing protection measures within the conservation zones has tangible benefits for both fish stocks and local communities.” – Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fishery, Cambodia
During the monitoring mission, CEPF and IUCN RIT visited the Phat Sanday commune by boat, where FACT hosted a meeting with the committee members and participants from the community, including representatives from Ministry of Environment, commune chief, community fishery committees, fishery administration officials, law enforcement team and provincial department of forestry and fishery.
This provided an open space for community members, local authorities and community fishery committees to discuss areas for improvement related to the project and highlight the overall status of project implementation to date. It also provided an opportunity for CEPF and IUCN RIT to see the project is operating on the grounds and how the activities were being implemented by FACT and the community members, while providing support and guidance for future implementation.
The fishery committee and community members are actively involved in the project implemented by FACT and have demonstrated a strong interest in biodiversity conservation. The commune councils have strongly committed to integrating the community fisheries management plan into the commune investment plan, as well as allocating the communal budget for fisheries conservation in the future, which would be a positive step towards sustainable fishery resource management in the Tonle Sap Lake.
The CEPF-financed project has importantly developed the capacity and skills of CFi committees in the four focal communes, promoting collaborative work among the stakeholders at all levels. - Mr. Youk Senglong, Executive Director of FACT.
FACT aims to further develop the capacity of the fishery committee and community members through regular trainings and consultations, so they can eventually manage the fishery conservation zone themselves in the future. The committee members also expressed the need for eco-tourism as a way for the local community to earn an income, but also to showcase the unique life of the community living in Phat Sanday. In the future, FACT will continue to facilitate biodiversity monitoring and the integration of new adaptive technology into fishery protection to support evidence-based fishery management.
Cambodia Indigenous Youth Association (CIYA) is a civil society organisation that supports capacity building for the youth indigenous communities in Cambodia.
CEPF and the IUCN RIT also visited projects, such as CIYA's, focusing on ‘Strengthening Indigenous Youth Participation in Protection of the Northern Plains Seasonally Inundated Forests of Cambodia’, in line with CEPF Strategic Direction 8 – Strengthen the capacity of civil society to work on biodiversity, communities and livelihoods at regional, national, local and grassroots levels.
Building on their existing long-term relationship with these communities and recognising the importance of engaging young people in natural resource management, CIYA has been supporting the development of indigenous youth groups in the three villages in Reab Roi commune of Preah Vihear province in Cambodia. The aim is to encourage youth to voice their concerns and priorities in dialogues and forums within the communities, and to develop and implement activities that respond to their need and priorities.
Youth activities to date have involved community cleaning sessions, including repairing community roads, bridges and pump wells, as well as participating in patrol activities to protect community forest lands.
CEPF and the RIT visited the CIYA office in Phnom Penh, to review the ongoing progress of the project. Upon arrival, the indigenous youth at CIYA greeted our team at the door and welcomed us into their office by performing a traditional indigenous dance, which was a very unique experience - what a performance!
After that, our team tasted the local indigenous food prepared by the indigenous community at CIYA and engaged in discussions to learn more about the project achievements, highlights and challenges during the reporting period.
A step towards inclusive development and biodiversity conservation
The monitoring visit is an important part of the project cycle as it is a way for the monitoring team to observe project achievements on the ground and engage in discussions with key stakeholders. This is also a way for the monitoring team to provide feedback to the grantees and discuss any challenges that may arise related to the project. Throughout the trip, core themes were highlighted by the community members as a focus area going forward, such as the importance of local community, women, and indigenous youth to be actively engaged in biodiversity conservation and protection of conserved areas to enable a sustainable and inclusive future, not only for ourselves, but future generations to come.
CEPF empowers non-governmental organizations, Indigenous groups, universities and private enterprises to protect the world’s biodiversity hotspots and help communities thrive. It is a joint initiative of l’Agence Française de Développement, Conservation International, the European Union, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan, and the World Bank. In the Indo-Burma Hotspot, it is also supported by the Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies.
IUCN serves as CEPF’s Regional Implementation Team in the Indo-Burma hotspot.
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