RECOFTC Cambodia

About PaFF

Strengthening capacity and increasing finance for community-based natural resource management

The Partnership for Forestry and Fisheries Communities in Cambodia (PaFF) is an eight-year initiative that is helping rural Cambodians exercise their rights to manage, protect and benefit from local natural resources in ways that sustain livelihoods, reduce poverty and increase resilience to economic and environmental shocks. It also seeks to strengthen democratic processes, promote rule of law and safeguard human rights of women, indigenous groups, and low-income community members through their engagement in community-based natural resource management.

PaFF strengthens capacity among communities and government agencies to implement three approaches to sustainable natural resource management: community forestry, community fisheries and community-protected areas. It is supporting indigenous and local communities to secure rights to access and use local forest and fishery resources, implement resource management plans, improve production practices and access finance. The initiative also empowers community members with a specific focus on Indigenous Peoples and women, to participate in dialogues with authorities on natural resource management, development planning and policy. 

To improve incomes, PaFF supports the creation of small-scale enterprises to process and market fish, develop and market forest products such as honey and bamboo, and promote eco-tourism. PaFF strengthens links between community groups and private sector actors along value chains. 

PaFF is also setting up credit schemes and mini trust funds. These will provide sustainable sources of finance for implementing forest and fishery management plans and provide community members with a means of investing to improve their livelihoods.

Ultimately, PaFF will benefit tens of thousands of rural Cambodians in line with the Royal Government of Cambodia’s policy goals, including international commitments on climate change and biodiversity and progress towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) funded the first two phases of PaFF. SDC and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) are co-funding the third and final phase. Other funders that contributed in Phase 2 are: IUCN Netherlands, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the Belgium development cooperation and Forum Syd.

Map shows target provinces implementing PaFF
​PaFF operates in four provinces in northeastern Cambodia: Kratie, Stung Treng, Kampong Thom and Preah Vihear.

Why is PaFF needed?

Sixty-five percent of rural Cambodians depend on natural resources such as forests, rivers and lakes for their livelihoods and food security. But most are poor and lack secure land and forest rights, technical capacities and finance required to manage and use these resources sustainably. These natural resources are under threat from unsustainable and illegal natural resource extraction, as well as from economic and social land concessions, hydropower, extractive industries, and roads and other infrastructure.

Cambodia’s regulatory framework offers a solution to these challenges as it allows for communities to establish and democratically operate groups that manage the natural resources of forests or fisheries. The key government-mandated approaches that confer rights to local natural resources are community forests, community fisheries and community protected areas. These approaches align with Cambodia’s ongoing process of decentralizing authority from national to sub-national institutions. By strengthening and securing community rights, they have great potential to reduce poverty while protecting the natural resources on which people’s livelihoods depend. 

However, relatively few communities have yet taken advantage of the opportunities that registering a community forest, community fishery or community protected area can offer. The procedures required for formal recognition of one of these community-based approaches are complex. Most communities lack the knowledge, skills, finance and other resources required to manage them. Further challenges come from gaps in the policy, institutional, regulatory and oversight frameworks, particularly those needed to facilitate and oversee the management of investment funds. There is also a widespread lack of capacity among sub-national and local authorities to perform their respective roles.

PaFF exists to address these issues, focusing on Cambodia’s relatively natural-resource-rich but economically poor northeastern provinces. The initiative aligns with Cambodia’s national program for community forestry, community fisheries and community protected areas. It also works within the Cambodia National Policy on Green Growth for financing conservation sustainably, and its goal of restoring forest cover to 60 percent of the country’s land area by 2030.

A consortium of four organizations implements the program

A consortium of four organizations is implementing PaFF: RECOFTC, the Non-Timber Forest Products Exchange Programme Asia (NTFP-EP), World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Culture and Environment Preservation Association (CEPA).

PaFF combines the expertise of each organization: WWF on managing multi-stakeholder and landscape-scale platforms for policy dialogue; NTFP-EP on livelihood development; and RECOFTC and CEPA on strengthening community groups that manage natural resources. The coordinated landscape-based approach generates synergies and strengthens outreach and links to national and provincial platforms.  

The consortium is advised by a Program Steering Committee and supervised by an Executive Committee, both of which include representatives of government agencies.

PaFF began in November 2014 and will end in June 2023 

The program has three phases:

  • NTFP-EP led Phase 1, which ran from November 2014 to June 2017
  • WWF-Cambodia led Phase 2, which ran from July 2017 to June 2021
  • RECOFTC Cambodia leads Phase 3, which runs from July 2021 to June 2023

What was PaFF’s progress in Phase 1 and Phase 2?

The first and second phases of PaFF successfully supported community forestry and community fisheries groups and networks in Kratie, Stung Treng, Preah Vihear and Kampong Thom provinces. This included:

  • Formalizing 60 community forests and community fisheries
  • Developing and implementing 134 community forestry and fishery management plans
  • Establishing and operating 35 community-based enterprises 
  • Creating and operating 36 community forestry credit schemes with a total capital of US$88,000 and 1,206 members
  • Creating and operating 10 community fishery credit schemes with a total capital of US$4,878 and 191 members
  • Creating and operating 14 mini trust funds for community forests and community fisheries. 

Overall, the first two phases of PaFF supported about 44,600 people who depend on community forests and fisheries for their livelihoods. 

The initiative supported capacity building for provincial authorities in landscape planning, management and financing. PaFF also promoted the participation of community forestry and community fisheries groups and their networks in multi-stakeholder platforms. These platforms include the national and provincial community forestry program coordination committees, the Technical Working Group on Forestry Reform, and the Technical Working Group on Fisheries.

The technical working groups have engaged with key decision-makers and have advocated for stronger rights and better benefits from natural resources for local communities, such as being able to commercialize resources.

What PaFF aims to achieve in its third and final phase

Phase 3 of PaFF works to ensure that communities can exercise their rights to manage, protect and benefit from local natural resources in ways that sustain livelihoods, reduce poverty and increase the resilience of these communities to shocks. 

This final phase of PaFF also seeks to strengthen democratic processes, promote the rule of law, and safeguard human rights of women, indigenous groups, and low-income community members through their engagement in community-based natural resource management.

What will PaFF do in Phase 3?

Phase 3 builds on the experiences of previous phases to scale up reach and impact. It will increase the number of community forests involved and expand to include community protected areas. PaFF will continue to provide training and outreach to provincial government officials, sub-national authorities and groups engaged in community forestry, community fisheries and community protected areas.

Phase 3 will also continue to help communities to secure, exercise and protect their rights over natural resources by formalizing tenure. It will support communities as they develop and implement plans for managing their natural resources sustainably in inclusive and participatory ways. PaFF will build the capacity of communities in nursery establishment, tree planting, assisted natural regeneration, silvicultural treatments, firebreak clearance, implementation of management plans, budgeting, dispute management, and participatory monitoring and evaluation.

By the end of Phase 3, the initiative aims to have supported the implementation of management plans for community forests, community fisheries and community protected areas totalling 159,767 hectares, benefitting 60,926 people in 24,647 households. 

The program will identify ways for communities to diversify livelihoods to enhance their resilience to external shocks. Phase 3 will also support community-based enterprises through investment opportunities, improved business planning and by linking producers to markets.

PaFF will continue to create sustainable financing mechanisms to ensure investment in natural resource management plans, and wider benefits for participating communities. By the end of Phase 3, the initiative aims to have established 140 credit schemes with a combined US$392,000 in capital, and 17,000 member households eligible to borrow money. This will ultimately generate US$2,940 per month to support implementation of community forest management plans. PaFF also aims to have created 76 mini trust funds with a total of US$380,000 by the end of Phase 3, with 62 of these created in Phase 3. These and other income generating activities such as agroforestry or tree plantations will make an important contribution enabling communities to protect and manage their natural resources sustainably.

In Phase 3, PaFF will work to strengthen the policy and regulatory environment, making it more inclusive, equitable, transparent and beneficial for local communities to engage in the management of their local resources. PaFF will conduct policy research and analysis to inform changes in laws, policies and administrative procedures that favour sustainable and economically viable resource management and financing mechanisms. 

PaFF will also strengthen and support community forestry, community fisheries and community protected area networks, and empower them with a specific focus on Indigenous Peoples and women, to actively participate in multi-stakeholder dialogue platforms, so they can advocate for an enabling policy environment and sustainable financing.

Phase 3 of PaFF will generate an in-depth analysis of gender and social inequities. This will enable the partnership to understand power balances and develop strategies for inclusive and participatory development of groups engaged in community-based natural resource management. 

PaFF 3 will increase monitoring of its outcomes, processes, and overall impact throughout all of its phases. It will focus on identifying success factors, so as to provide lessons to support community-based natural resource management beyond the geography and lifespan of the partnership.

PaFF’s Phase 3 targets

Targets for Phase 3 include:

  • Community forestry: PaFF will support 113 communities to formalize community forests and/or develop and implement community forestry management plans​​ ​including agro-forestry, community forest plantation and harvesting. To provide sustainable financing for community forestry management, PaFF will support 111 community forest credit schemes, 75 new and 36 carried forward from the previous phases. It will also support development of 56 community forest mini trust funds, 53 new and three carried forward from the previous phases.

  • Community fisheries: PaFF will support  24 communities in Stung Treng Province to develop and implement community fishery management plans. PaFF will also capitalize and operate 24 community fishery credit schemes, 11 new and 10 carried forward. It will also capitalize and operate 20 community fishery mini trust funds, nine new and 11 carried forward.
  • Community protected areas: PaFF will replicate community-based self-financing mechanisms established in previous phases. It will set up and operate credit schemes in five community protected areas that will contribute to the implementation of their management plans.
  • Community-based enterprises: PaFF will continue to work with 11 viable community-based enterprises established in Phase 2 to harvest good models for financing implementation of community forestry management plans and improving livelihoods of community forest members.
  • Network strengthening: PaFF in Phase 3 will strengthen four provincial community forestry networks, 12 community fishery networks, two at the provincial level and 10 at the district level, and two regional and sub-national community protected area networks. It will also establish and facilitate an informal network for women who are members of community forests to learn from and support each other.
  • Advocacy and engagement: PaFF will continue to facilitate community forestry program coordination committees in each of the four target provinces. These committees bring together representatives of community forestry networks and subnational forestry authorities and district governors. PaFF will also support community forests and their networks to engage in evidence-based policy dialogue to consider sustainable community forest financing and investment in community development as solutions to climate change. The initiative will work with key government departments at national and subnational levels to establish coordination and collaboration across sectors and among stakeholders that will  support communities beyond PaFF, Phase 3.

Groups PaFF will work with in Phase 3

At sub-national and national level:

  • Community forestry: Committees, members, credit groups, enterprise groups 
  • Community fisheries: Committees, members, credit groups, enterprise groups
  • Community protected areas: Committees, members, credit groups, enterprise groups
  • Community forestry networks, community fishery networks, community protected area networks
  • National and provincial community forestry program coordination committees
  • National Community Protected Area Federation
  • Provincial Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in four provinces
  • Provincial Department of Environment in four provinces
  • Subnational authorities at the provincial, district, commune and village levels in four provinces
  • Forestry Administration’s Department of Forest and Community Forestry
  • Fisheries Administration’s Department of Community Fisheries Development
  • Department of Community Livelihoods of the General Directorate of Local Community under the Ministry of Environment,
  • Forestry Administration’s Technical Working Group on Forestry Reform and subgroups 
  • Fisheries Administration’s Technical Working Group on Fisheries
  • Ministry of Environment’s Technical Working Group on Gender
  • Forestry Administration’s Working Group on Gender

Find out more

For more information about PaFF, contact us at

Download the PaFF factsheet here.