Ms. Pheang has played a remarkable role in mobilizing stakeholders to rebuild areas that were once threatened by deforestation. Through her leadership, she has encouraged women in her community to step forward and earn a better living.
Ms. Khuth Pheang, a 43-year-old woman from Phnom Sre Ambel District, Koh Kong Province, sets a great example to all women in rural areas by leading her community towards a better life. With significant courage and dedication, she has strengthened the protection and conservation of natural resources in the Cardamom Mountains in the Dong Peng Commune.
“For many years, my husband worked with our neighbors to cut down trees and set animal traps to support our families. However, I realized that if we had continued to harvest, cut down, and trap wildlife, the natural resources in our region, as well as in Cambodia, would be degraded. So we organized our community by gathering the people of Bak Angrot and Preah Ang Keo villages in Dong Peng commune. At first, we started with only 200 family members ,” says Ms. Pheang who has been the President of the Phnom Torp Cheang Community Protected Area since 2019.
She is a woman who is not widely known. However, her leadership has played a remarkable role in mobilizing stakeholders to rebuild areas that were once threatened by deforestation. Now, they have become greener forests and have strengthened the local ecosystem to become a potential nature-based tourism destination that provides better income for community members.
Ms. Pheang says, “Because community members and relevant officials, together with the local authorities, have good cooperation and can see my courage and determination to fight for the protection of natural resources, I was elected as the head of the community of Phnom Torp Cheang Community Protected Area.”
This community is located in the Southern Cardamom Mountain area and has great nature-based tourism potential, including the Stung Pongrol Waterfall, Stung Popok, a mysterious rock site, and other natural sites. The scenery at these sites is breathtaking.
“I have organized nature-based tourism services, including moto-dups, chefs, and teams to prepare camps, tents, boats, and walking tractors as a means of transportation within the community area.” -Ms. Pheang.
Ms. Pheang also encourages women in her community to step forward and earn a better living through involvement in businesses such as Bamboo handicrafts, souvenir arrangements, and sightseeing tours. Ecotourism has received the attention of national and international tourists, with the support from the Southern Cardamom REDD+ projects and the motivation from the Royal Government of Cambodia. It is a good sign of participation in promoting the economic development of families and society.
“Initially, people did not understand that natural resources could be helpful, such as nature-based tourism and by-products of forest products, to improve livelihoods. Now the ecotourism program has helped my people increase their income for a better life through tourism services,” says Ms. Pheang.
Ms. Pheang stated that, earlier, women in her community did not know how to weave. Step by step they received training for various skills and she formed a group of women to process non-timber forest products as consumer goods. “The women in the community used to do a little farming and stay home to take care of their children. They were unaware of any other means of income. As they have acquired skills to make goods, they are now able to support their families with better income and have sustainable lives,” she says.
The persistent courage and leadership of Ms. Khuth Pheang is changing mindsets in her community about the importance of bringing equality to women and building more female leadership in the Southern Cardamom landscape.