In recent years the river and its surrounding lands have been under pressure from rapid, unplanned economic development, proposed a construction of hydropower dams, and over-fishing. In response, the Royal Government of Cambodia has developed strategies to enable local communities to form Community Forestry or Community Fisheries groups with the objective of securing their land rights and livelihoods. But they need technical support for legalization and the development of sustainable enterprises.
WWF has played a role in this and has recently been supported by funding from the Belgian Government, which is one of the main funding sources for the conservation of the landscape. WWF is among the NGOs who will share USD 2.25 million in a programme aiming to alleviate and rectify the damage done to the Mekong and its surrounding areas through economic land concessions, hydroelectric dams, and both legal and illegal logging and mining. The goal of the funded project is that, by 2021, 15,000 men and women in communities along the Mekong River in Kratie province will achieve land security, facilitating livelihood improvements, sustainable forest management
and biodiversity protection.
Resin is one of the most important NTFPs collected by rural communities in Cambodia. It is used as a raw material in the manufacturing of varnish, cheap soap, leather making, and sealing wax, as well as for caulking boats and in torches for lighting houses in the village.
Resin is extracted from dipterocarp trees by making a small cut in the tree which is set alight to induce resin flow. Around Mondulkiri Protected Forest, for example, resin tapping is an important economic activity for more than 40% of the people. There usually exists a traditional ownership system of resin trees where ownership is recognized and respected. Aside from liquid resin, solid resin is also collected, although at smaller scales. Solid resin does not have much commercial value at only 1500 Cambodian Riel per kg (ca. 0.13 USD) compared to liquid resin which fetches about twice that amount per litre.
Resin tapping can be done sustainably but carries considerable collateral risks due to opportunistic hunting by collectors, diseases spread by domestic ox and dogs, as well as disturbance due to fire In response, WWF plans to phase out resin tapping in the core protection zones of its protected areas but will develop schemes to compensate tree owners.. WWF has also implemented educational campaigns spreading knowledge on sustainable practice of resin tapping.
Honey collection has been an activity among forest communities for a long time because of its medicinal value. Honey hunting was traditionally mainly used for household consumption, but has now become a commercial activity due to the increasing demand for honey products in the province and the high prices of around 15,000-20,000 Cambodian Riel per litre (ca 3.75-5 USD).
WWF seeks to promote sustainable honey collection to support local livelihoods. In cooperation with the Non-timber Forest Products Exchange Programme (NTFP-EP), WWF promotes and supports NTFP-based community processing activities. Communities are organised in groups, provided with capacity building, and receive help to publicly promote their achievements. To enlarge and secure contribution of forest honey collection to community livelihoods, honey collectors are trained in harvesting and processing techniques that are both sustainable and hygienic.
Together with NTFP-EP, WWF has now expanded these activities to the formation of the Cambodian Wild Honey Network. This network will help strengthen the bargaining power of honey collector groups, let more honey collectors learn and understand about sustainable honey harvesting, and thus allow for more areas of forest to be protected.
Ecotourism offers one of the most sustainable means of making substantial economic returns from investing in wildlife conservation. The Royal Government of Cambodia, along with WWF and other NGOs, is testing tourism development as a way to conserve wildlife and contribute to economic development in the Eastern Plains Landscape.
Since 2009, a small-scale community-based homestay experience is now operating within Mondulkiri Protected Forest. Guests can enjoy a hospitable stay in the village of Dei Ey, an ideal starting point for overnight forest tracks on foot. As part of this homestay, WWF has trained community members in topics like hospitality, cooking, and weaving.
In addition, an African-style tented camp is planned to begin receiving visitors in the remote Srepok River area of Mondulkiri Protected Forest in 2011.
WWF-Cambodia hopes that Ecotourism can help to create additional opportunities to sustain community livelihoods in the landscape, to raise awareness among community members about the value of forest and wildlife, and to co-finance protected areas.