Around 2,000 households in the wildlife sanctuaries of Srepok and PhnomPrich will benefit from EU funding of 2.8million Euros (USD3.3million) over the next five years. The money will support the Advancing CSOs’ (Civil Society Organizations’) Capacity to Ensure Sustainable Solutions (ACCESS) project, which brings WWF together with partner NGOs, Community Legal Education Center (CLEC), My Village Organization and Aide au Développement Gembloux(ADG).
The overarching aim of the ACCESS project is to ensure that marginalized forest communities affected by threats, such as the increasing pressure from external economic interests to the natural resources on which they depend, are able to legally manage and enforce the protection of their forests.
The project activities aim to improve the organizational management capacity of Community Protected Areas(CPA), to enable them to contribute to decision making and policy making, to protect and conserve their forests, and to engage with lawmakers, relevant authorities and the private sector for the benefit of inhabitants, income generation and the sustainability of the environment.
Commenting on the funding, Mr George Edgar, the EU’s Ambassador to Cambodia, said: “Community Protected Areas play a crucial role in environmental protection and sustainable resource use, and it is important that those people have strong capacity to implement their work. We hope that this model of community-led resource management can be replicated in other places in the country. It could potentially benefit over 6 million people dependent on forests, making a real contribution to the implementation of the Royal Government’s policy on Protected Area management.”
Law enforcement activities in the EPL is a focal point of our efforts supporting protected areas, biodiversity conservation and sustainable resource use. Illegal activities in the EPL are unrelenting. But interventions, as part of a wider national crackdown, are paying off. In addition to supporting government law enforcement officers with technical training, WWF is supportsand trainsrangers to report their progress using Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tools (SMART) making sure that every location, item and activity is tracked and recorded in details. Furthermore, WWF is supporting strengthening capacity of law enforcement teams by providing training to Protected Area team leaders and field rangers based on (IUCN-WCPA Global Competence for Protected Area Staff (level 1, 2) or regional equivalence.
Illegal logging is rampant: some wood is logged by migrant populations to smuggle into neighboring countries, some luxury timber is used to make furniture to sell and some logging is conducted to clear land for agriculture. Patrolling, which takes place periodically during the year, is conducted to identify illegal activities, to confiscate items that have been illegally obtained, to issue warning letters and to work with local authorities to make arrests and conduct prosecutions if necessary. Patrol teams were supported by MEU team that responds to callouts as well as conducting raids and mounting spontaneous road blocks and checks. In both wildlife sanctuaries, there are also community patrolling teams (CPTs).
In one case, a mobile enforcement unit (MEU) confiscated 237 logs in two days through roadblocks and checks during the night. In another, a patrol raid led to the discovery of 150 logs that had been dumped in Srepok Wildlife Sanctuary as the driver fled to avoid prosecution. And in a third, a driver was arrested and a minivan was confiscated: 12 logs were found in the vehicle and 41 more at the original site. Forest rangers – WWF-Cambodia is now supporting 119 (an increase from the previous 53) and this number is set to increase in the year ahead. These rangers- cover thousands of kilometers, sometimes camping in the wilderness for weeks, to seize chainsaws, timbers, live animals and reams of metal wire used for snares. A draft ranger operation plan was developed based on the minimum standards set out by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature)-World Commission on Protected Areas, and is being revised and updated to ensure maximum law enforcement effectiveness in both the Srepok and Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuaries.