Thousands of Cambodians empowered to manage local forests and fisheries sustainably
The Partnership for Forest and Fisheries Communities (PaFF) has ended, having transformed the lives of thousands of rural Cambodians by supporting them to exercise their rights to manage, protect and benefit from local forests and fisheries resources.
The partnership’s achievements and legacy were showcased at a workshop hosted by RECOFTC Cambodia in Phnom Penh on 24 May.
PaFF was implemented by the Non-Timber Forest Products Exchange Programme Asia (), , the and .
The initiative focused on building capacities among communities and government agencies to implement three community-based approaches to the sustainable management of natural resources: it supported 120 community forests, 64 community fisheries and 11 community protected areas.
PaFF communities are now able to claim and exercise their rights to manage local resources, and to develop and implement management plans for their respective areas. The communities now manage a total of more than 200,000 hectares.
Overall, more than 94,000 people in 35,000 households benefited from PaFF. More than half were women, and one fifth belonged to indigenous groups. Women occupy around 30 percent of the management and leadership roles in PaFF community forests, community fisheries, community protected areas and related credit schemes.
Through the partnership, Cambodia’s natural resources are more protected as community-led patrolling and reporting of crimes relating to land and natural resources have increased. Between 2021 and 2022, PaFF-supported communities raised 482 cases of illegal logging, land encroachment and related illegalities with the authorities. In 60 percent of cases, the authorities resolved to address these complaints.
PaFF also established and supported 35 community-based enterprises. More than 800 households are now selling honey, palm-leaf products and ecotourism services and others. These and other income-generating activities such as agroforestry have improved livelihoods of the participating communities.
In Kratie Province, PaFF supported the formation of the Koh Samseb community-based ecotourism group. In 2022, the group adopted a five-year ecotourism development plan with guidance from PaFF and relevant government departments and ministries.
“The plan gives us vision,” said Khut Samol, chief of the ecotourism group. “We know our priorities, what we can do, and what we need from others to help us grow and attract tourists.”
To help communities manage their resources sustainably over the long term, PaFF established credit schemes and mini trust funds in 141 community based natural resources management. These have a total capital of more than USD 1.4 million and provide more than USD 6,500 each month to support the management of community forests and fisheries. Through the credit schemes, members can access to loans to improve their livelihoods.
“The partnership has been successful in achieving its objectives, with many communities now exercising their rights to manage and benefit from local resources thanks to community forestry approaches,” said Hou Kalyan, director of RECOFTC Cambodia. “The project’s closure does not mean the end of these practices, as they have been integrated into the daily lives of the participating communities.”
As well as working with local communities, PaFF helped the Royal Government of Cambodia shape policies and processes relating to community-based natural resource management. Overall, PaFF contributed to the drafting or revision of 17 policies, strategies, regulations or guidelines.
“PaFF aligned well with Cambodia’s policy goals relating to decentralization, forest protection, and progress towards to the UN Sustainable Development Goals,” says Vong Sopanha, Deputy Director-General of the Forestry Administration. “It has been effective at strengthening capacities and policies enabling communities to benefit from participating in the Royal Government of Cambodia’s different models for community-based natural resource management.”
To boost information sharing and collective power, PaFF worked with 20 community forests, community fisheries and community protected areas networks. It also supported 10 multistakeholder platforms through which representatives of these networks can advocate for stronger rights and supportive policy reforms.
"The network gives me opportunities," said Keo Vanna, chief of Kampong Thom Provincial Community Forestry Network. "I am able to build my capacity through trainings and I can share with and learn from different people, inside and outside the country. I can use what I learn to help my constituent communities."
PaFF was implemented in Kratie, Stung Treng, Kampong Thom and Preah Vihear provinces. It was funded mainly by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).
“Rural Cambodians depend heavily on natural resources for their livelihoods but are not always aware of their rights to manage these resources,” says Markus Buerli, SDC’s Director of Cooperation in Cambodia. “PaFF has closed this gap, enabling tens of thousands of people to secure access to local resources and the rights to manage these collectively. This has improved livelihoods and boosted people’s resilience, while contributing to Cambodia’s efforts to address climate change and protect nature.”
Camilla Ottosson, Head of Development Cooperation (Sida) at the Embassy of Sweden Section office in Phnom Penh, says: “By focusing on rights and responsibilities, PaFF has strengthened engagement and collaboration between the Cambodian government and local communities. This is evident in improved responses to community reports of illegality, greater participation by community representatives in policy processes, and the approval by government authorities of communities’ management plans covering a large area of forests and fisheries.”
Another legacy of the project is a new webpage showcasing the wealth of knowledge and experience PaFF generated. The webpage launches in June. It will provide researchers, policymakers, civil society organizations and community groups with information on best practices for community-based natural resource management in Cambodia. It includes a directory of participating communities, enabling funders and other organizations to identify future partners and recipients of support.
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This story is produced with the financial support of the Partnership for Forestry and Fisheries Communities in Cambodia (PaFF) - Phase 3. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) are co-funding the third and final phase which runs from July 2021 to June 2023. A consortium of four organizations is implementing PaFF: , the Non-Timber Forest Products Exchange Programme Asia (), World Wide Fund for Nature () and the Culture and Environment Preservation Association (). For more information visit