New ecotourism plan paves the way to long-term benefits for forest and fishery communities in Cambodia
Two new five-year ecotourism development plans will improve incomes in forest and fishery communities while contributing to sustainable resources management and improving resilience to climate change in Cambodia.
Two community-based ecotourism groups developed the plans: the Koh Samseb Ecotourism Group in Kratie Province and the Samros Koh Han Ecotourism Group in Stung Treng Province. The plans will be implemented from 2022 to 2026.
The Koh Samseb and Samros Koh Han groups bring together representatives of community forestry and community fishery areas managed by villages along the Mekong River.
RECOFTC Cambodia has been working with the communities to develop and update plans for fair and sustainable access and use of the forest . These plans have helped communities to manage their natural resources sustainably. The multi-year ecotourism plans build on the commitments for natural resource management and provide means to improve communities’ livelihoods.
The Koh Samseb and Samros Koh Han groups hosted launches to announce the ecotourism plans in Stung Treng City and Kratie City on 27–28 June 2022.
The goal of the launch was to seek support from stakeholders. More than 50 people attended each launch, including representatives from national, provincial and local governments, non-governmental organizations, development partners, private sector, community and youth groups. Events included welcome speeches, videos of the tourism sites, presentations from the communities on the development plans, and question and answer sessions for the participants.
“I am glad to be part of the journey,” said Kham Sopheap, deputy governor in charge of tourism in Kratie. “This development plan will help the community strengthen its economic and social well-being and tourism in Kratie as a whole.”
RECOFTC Cambodia and other implementing organizations of the Partnership for Forestry and Fisheries Communities in Cambodia (PaFF) worked with the community-based ecotourism groups to launch the plans in Kratie and Stung Treng. The Partnership will also help the communities implement the development plans.
The plans include training on hospitality, waste management and financial management for committees and members. They also include promoting the tourism sites by linking with tour operators and other stakeholders, expanding the tourism package and exploring new activities to attract tourists.
PaFF in Cambodia
PaFF is an eight-year, three-phase initiative that began in November 2014 and will end in June 2023. Its goal is to help 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.
Sixty-five percent of rural Cambodians depend on natural resources 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.
Cambodia’s regulatory framework allows communities to establish and democratically operate groups that manage the natural resources of forests or fisheries.
However, relatively few communities have yet taken advantage of the opportunities that registering a community forest, community fishery or community protected area can offer.
PaFF addresses these issues, focusing on Cambodia’s relatively natural-resource-rich but economically poor northeastern provinces.
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.
Ecotourism will provide long-term benefits
RECOFTC Cambodia leads Phase 3 of PaFF, which runs from July 2021 to June 2023.
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.
Phase 3 will also support community-based enterprises through investment opportunities, improved business planning and by linking producers to markets. The ecotourism plan in Stung Treng and Kratie provinces is part of this phase. RECOFTC Cambodia will provide the communities with skills, knowledge and resources for implementing the plan and improving their livelihoods during and beyond the PaFF project period.
“The plan gives us vision,” said Khut Samol, chief of Koh Samseb community-based ecotourism group in Kratie province. “We know our priorities and what we can do and what we need others to help support us to grow and attract tourists.”
Twenty five students from Kratie University participated in the launch event in Kratie. They were interested in the presentations and expressed their commitment to share what they learned with others.
“I will go to see the Koh Samseb ecotourism site,” said zoology student Thy Socheata. “I am proud that my province has a beautiful place where we can enjoy nature. I will definitely share this information with my friends, family and colleagues to promote community-based tourism.”
PaFF is an eight-year, three-phase initiative that began in November 2014 and will end in June 2023. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency are co-funding the third and final phase. For more information about PaFF, visit recoftc.org/en/cambodia/projects/paff/about/about-paff