The Community Chief along with his villagers joined hands and echoed together that they have taken an oath to protect their forest and wildlife. Likewise, they request everyone to do the same. “Together we can protect the future.”
When I went to visit the local villages in the Southern Cardamom Landscape of Cambodia, all I could hear was quiet. I could breathe fresh air and feel the difference from being in the big city of Phnom Penh. I could see children laughing and playing outside their homes, on the red muddy roads, in the rain, having a good time. Parents and families gathered around sitting together, sharing meals, helping each other, looking peaceful. They have kind hearts and are content with what they have. They still believe that there is a little good in everyone.
While interviewing community members from the local villages across the landscape, I learned how difficult their lives have become over the years due to the impacts of climate change.
“I learned that in the name of development, we are cutting down and destroying their forests, and these local people are the ones to bear the brunt first-hand.”
They face many difficulties due to climate change, such as droughts, floods, and other natural disasters which affect their daily income sources like cattle, agriculture, and tourism. Most of the villagers completely depend on the forest in order to survive, to make an income and to meet their basic needs.
The recent droughts have created very difficult times for local villagers. Their family members have to walk 7-8 km to fetch water for their daily chores. It not only consumes a lot of their time but also their energy. Floods and storms sometimes damage their houses, fields, and cattle, leaving them with no proper income to recover their losses. They also have to face the losses of their loved ones, due to severe health issues caused by such natural calamities. This is all driven by the destruction of forests, resulting in climate change.
My biggest takeaway after sitting down with the villagers was their humble request to protect their forests, their land, and the wildlife that calls it home. That this message be heard by World Leaders so they have the opportunity to live a better life. I was moved by many powerful messages I heard from the community. Their hope is that the future generations will receive a good education. That they will have job opportunities. That they can breathe fresh air. They understand that the protection of the forest and wildlife gives us all life, and plays an invaluable role in our collective existence.