When Wildlife Alliance began working in the Cardamom Mountains of Cambodia two decades ago, the remote commune of Chi Phat was known as a hub of wildlife smuggling and illegal logging. An appraisal of the region’s resources and economic development options spotlighted tourism as the best opportunity to preserve the vulnerable ecosystem and partner with communities to provide a better livelihood.
argeted infrastructure projects have been initiated across Chi Phat, Sovanna Baitong, Bak Angrut, O’Som and Chomna villages, including the provision of new roads, bridges, water wells, schools and a medical centre. Additional funding has been allocated to support higher education opportunities, establish a tiger recovery centre and address the snaring crisis through the expansion of the ranger and Community Anti-Poaching Unit programs.
The Southern Cardamom REDD+ Project has undertaken numerous construction projects throughout surrounding communities in Q1-Q2 2022, including 43 wells to provide clean water to >3600 people as well as 25km of road and drainage culverts to connect a remote village to a market center and medical facilities. The Community Anti-Poaching Unit at Chi Phat has recorded the return of wildlife to the area as a result of relentless protection of the eco- tourism and wildlife release site. However, human-elephant conflicts have resurfaced in other areas of the project due to the continued fragmentation of forests in surrounding areas, ending peacefully through the proactive intervention from local rangers.
The community-run fish pond initiative is continuing to expand through the project area as a more sustainable option to wild-caught fish, with new succes s in breeding the African sharptooth catfish (Clarias gariepinus). Women are leading agricultural intensification in th e project zone through Community Based Organisations (OBs), securing food and alternative income through the establishment of a new cassava species. Construction continues on new educational, water and healthcare facilities, with a new clinic in Ibali set to open in early 2022.
Agricultural intensification and diversification continue to expand across the project area, with new high yield cassava being introduced into community gardens. The women-led Community Based Organizations (OBs) have shown incredible progress, with 80% of women in the villages currently participating. The main building of the Ibali healthcare clinic has finished construction and has been equipped with new diagnostics equipment; further state-funded expansions are being planned. Poaching and logging continue to be challenging. However, a new radio- communications project is underway to improve the efficiency of incident reporting.
The Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary (KSWS) REDD+ Project has a world-class, long-term biodiversity monitoring program. Core to this is program is a distance sampling line transect methodology, which provides estimates of key species abundance, distribution, and population trends for six primate species, six ungulate species, and one bird species.
With carbon credit sales made throughout 2021, the project has expanded its impact and scale through the distribution of grantsto selected partners with sector-specific expertise for strategic activities, accelerating implementation versus developing new internal teams to address these activities. Community benefit sharing is also expanding, with more than 100 community-led development activities funded by REDD+ during this period. Core project activities continue to make progress, with another community awarded legal rights to 872 ha for management as a Community Protected Area.
The annual wildlife data collection has been completed as part of the KSWS REDD+ project’s long-term biodiversity monitoring program; with observations spanning > 1600km. The IUCN Red List endangered species, Eld’s Deer, was caught on a camera trap for the first time in KSWS. More funds are available for community benefits sharing, with villages prioritizing educational activities. The national REDD+ nesting process has been delayed, but validation and verification of new credits are underway.
Access to clean water is a top community development priority at the Kasigau Corridor REDD+ project. In an already semi-arid landscape with limited access to clean and safe water, climate change is creating drastic changes to rainfall patterns in the region, resulting in widespread drought and water shortages. Over the past 50 years, mean annual temperature has risen by nearly 2°C, while the number of consecutive dry days is increasing and consecutive wet days are decreasing – resulting in higher frequency and magnitude droughts impacting the region. The seasonal precipitation patterns are highly unpredictable, challenging the efficient management of water resources in the project zone. This is leaving devastating impacts on the community, their livestock, and wildlife in the project area.
The Kasigau corridor project continues to expand healthcare and education spending, with the implementation of 3 novel health education pilot projects, the distribution of covid supplies as well as building, renovating and equipping schools within the project zone. A new cohort of enthusiastic rangers has been recruited and trained alongside a new Senior Research Scientist, Dr Geoffrey Mwangi Wambugu, who has joined the team. A widespread drought has challenged food security, but the communities remain resilient in their drive to continue the greenhouse enterprise.