Our Community Agriculture Development Program helps mitigate hunger and poverty in rural Cambodia by providing sustainable livelihood opportunities to former poachers and slash and burn farmers. And our Community-Based Ecotourism project partners with the community of Chi Phat to develop ecotourism jobs for local people in order to provide long-term incentives to protect the surrounding forests.
In the Cardamom Mountains, many landless Cambodians struggle to survive by poaching wildlife, illegally cutting down trees and scraping to provide food, shelter, education and health care for themselves and their children. In 1990, 73 percent of Cambodia's land area was covered by forest. By 2007, that number had dropped to 57 percent. People in the Cardamoms depended heavily on the destruction of the forests to prepare fertile farmland and provide food security for their family.
Our community programs empower local people towards sustainable practices and income. The agricultural project helps communities earn a livable income through training in modern-practice farming and marketing, and provision of sustainable inputs, such as irrigation, seedlings and tools. Our ecotourism project partners with the community of Chi Phat to provide jobs to local people who operate guesthouses, home-stays, and restaurants and also provides guided tours to visitors from around the world.
By directly addressing the underlying causes of forest destruction -poverty- and by promoting programs that generate income for poor, rural communities, illegal forest activities have significantly diminished and community members are benefiting. The increased income allows children to attend schools; community members have access to community funds and health clinics; and there is a growing small-business sector. People now realize they have a stake in the protection of their natural resources.