RECOFTC Cambodia

Tens of thousands of Cambodians benefitting from strengthened rights over forests and fisheries will help to reverse the loss of nature

Tens of thousands of rural Cambodians are being empowered to exercise their rights to manage, protect and benefit from local natural resources in ways that sustains livelihoods, reduces poverty and increases resilience to economic and environmental shocks.

These gains are being achieved through an 8-year initiative called the Partnership for Forestry and Fishery Communities in Cambodia (PaFF), whose US$6.2 million final phase will be launched at a workshop in Phnom Penh on 19 August 2021.

The third phase of PaFF is funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), which is coming on board as a donor for this final phase. 

Among other things, the programme 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.

“I now join in discussion how the budget for the community forestry management plan from credit scheme should be spent,” Say Am, the secretary of Prey Kbal Bey community forest management committee, Kampong Thom province says. “I am now more aware of what we can do to manage the forest because I join the monthly credit meetings.”

The programme will continue to be implemented in Kratie, Stung Treng, Kampong Thom and Preah Vihear provinces by four partners: 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 focuses on building capacity among communities and government agencies to implement three approaches to sustainable natural resource management: community forestry, community fisheries and community-protected areas.

“The initiative is an opportunity to enhance rural communities’ livelihoods in Cambodia and strengthen their capacity to manage natural resources sustainably,” said Sea Ra, Deputy Director General of Cambodia’s Forestry Administration. “We are pleased to see the achievements in the first and second phases of PaFF and look forward to following the progress in Phase 3.”

“Community members in rural areas in Cambodia have economic, social, and cultural rights that are interlinked with the natural resources on which they depend for their livelihoods,” says Markus Buerli, SDC’s Director of Cooperation, and Development Counselor in Cambodia. 

“That is why PaFF takes an explicit rights-based approach. It is helping communities to secure rights to access and use local forest and fishery resources, while promoting understanding and accountability among both communities and authorities in the face of climate change and for sustainable natural resources management.”

PaFF is supporting communities to formalize their tenure over local forest and fishery resources, engage with authorities, implement management plans, improve production practices and access finance.

The first two phases of PaFF ran from November 2014 to June 2021 and supported some 44,600 people who depend on community forests and fisheries for their livelihoods. In these phases, PaFF helped 60 communities to formalize their rights over local forests and fisheries, and supported 134 communities in the development and implementation of management plans for these resources.

It also created 14 mini trust funds, 46 credit schemes to help finance the management of community forests and fisheries while providing members access to loans to improve their livelihoods. And it helped to establish 35 community-based enterprises selling forest products, fish or ecotourism services.

Community-based natural resource management is an effective approach that helps to tackle nature loss and build resilience to climate change. Cambodia is no exception. It has increased recognition of community rights to manage and use local natural resources. In this context, PaFF has not only improved people’s livelihoods but has also helped to reverse the loss of nature and endangered species in Cambodia. 

Some of the conservation successes that PaFF has contributed to include the first recorded increase in the population of river dolphins — by 15% in 2017 — after two decades of decline. In the Mekong, numbers of river terns, one of the world’s rarest bird species, doubled in the past five years. And there have also been continuous increases of numbers of endangered vultures and white-shouldered ibises.

“The PaFF consortium has proven that collective actions work better and deliver more impact at scale for people and nature,” said Seng Teak, Country Director of WWF-Cambodia, which led the implementation of PaFF’s Phase 2 between 2017 and 2021.

“Empowering communities by strengthening the capacity and resources they need to make decisions about, manage, and use their natural resources, should be the way forward,” he says. “In doing so, we promote local ownership and support long-lasting livelihood development and biodiversity conservation.”

The final phase of PaFF will build on these successes. It will continue to test innovations, while replicating and scaling up best practices to other communities. By the end of this phase in June 2023, the partnership aims to have supported the implementation of management plans for 113 community forests, 24 community fisheries and 5 community protected areas totalling 159,767 hectares, and benefitting 60,926 people in 24,647 households for their user rights with sustainability.

PaFF will continue to create sustainable financing mechanisms to enable communities to implement their natural resource management plans. By the end of Phase 3, the partnership 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 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. It will continue to support community-based enterprises through investment opportunities, improved business planning and by linking producers to markets. These activities as well as other income generating activities such as agroforestry or tree plantations make an important contribution enabling communities to protect and implement the sustainable management plan for their natural resources.

PaFF is also supporting community representatives to actively participate in groups working on reforms in the forest and fisheries sectors. This is enabling communities to engage with authorities and advocate for stronger rights and greater benefits from managing their local natural resources.

“One of PaFF’s strengths is the empowerment of community members, with a specific focus on Indigenous Peoples and women, to actively participate in dialogue on natural resource management, development planning and policy,” says Camilla M Ottosson, Head of Development Cooperation, Embassy of Sweden to Cambodia. “This is essential to strengthen the national and subnational policy conditions needed for securing community rights over natural resources for the development of a sustainable community-based management of such resources.”

In its final phase, which RECOFTC is leading, PaFF aims to further strengthen the policy and regulatory environment, making it more inclusive, equitable and beneficial for local communities to engage in the management of their local resources. This will include conducting policy research and analysis to inform changes in laws, policies and administrative procedures that favour sustainable and economically viable resource management and financing mechanisms.

“When communities have secure rights over their natural resources, those resources can be managed in a more transparent, fair, accountable and equitable way, leading to long-term sustainability,” says RECOFTC Cambodia Director Hou Kalyan. “PaFF is enabling communities that depend on forestry and fisheries to respond better to challenges created by rapid economic growth and environmental degradation. Through enhanced production means, these households will have diversified incomes from natural resources and alternative sources of food.”

“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.”


More information about PaFF

Visit and project factsheet.


For more information, contact: 

Dy Vutheara, Communication Officer, RECOFTC Cambodia  

T +855 23 998 784