Written by Mekong Institute

Throughout the 1990s, the Cambodian forestry sector was in a state of crisis due to widespread illegal logging, corruption, ambiguous forest laws and concession agreements, and weak management and law enforcement. Until the late 1990s, responsibility for natural resource management (NRM) in Cambodia was vested in two line ministries:
(i) Ministry of Environment (MOE) – for forest within the Protected Areas; and
(ii) Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) – for protected forest and forests outside the PAs.

The Royal Government of Cambodia has reformed the forestry sector since early 2000 to engage the communities in natural resource management process through two main forms:
(i) the Community Protected Area (CPA); and
(ii) the Community Forestry (CF).   

Since the start of the CPA and the CF, particularly in Siem Reap province, there is yet specific evidence to be found on how effectively the CPA and CF operate and on the level of socioeconomic benefits gained by the CPA and CF members from their participation in the Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) activities. This study investigated these issues in one CPA (Popel in Khnang Phnom Commune) and one CF (Thbaeng Lech in Thbaeng Commune) in Siem Reap province, Cambodia.

The specific research guiding questions for this study are: (i) why were the CPA and CF started, and what was the process by which they were established; (ii) how effective are the CPA and CF in meeting their agreement objectives; and, (iii) do CPA and CF increase members household socioeconomic benefits

To acquire necessary information, 5 sets of questionnaires were developed for 5 different respondent groups. Two rounds of field interview were conducted. The first round was conducted in April 2012, with the assistance of 4 enumerators to interview 73 households – consisting of 21 CPA households, 52 CF households and other key informants. The second round was conducted in May 2012 to validate the data. The researcher reviewed the findings with key informants and natural resource management specialists when the draft report was.

The researcher adapted the effectiveness assessment concept used under the ADB Guidelines for Preparing Performance Evaluation Reports (ADB, 2006) and the effectiveness assessment framework developed by AVSF (2010) to assess the effectiveness of the CPA and CF management and Operation. SPSS and Excel spreadsheet were used to analyze the data, drawing the relative frequency distribution and weighted mean. On the establishment process, it was concluded that:
(i) the CPA Popel was established following the government policy and by the projects of development partners, but that the community members were not made fully aware of their roles and responsibilities in the CBNRM process; and
(ii) the CF Thbaeng was also established following the government policy and by the development partner projects; and the community members were fully engaged. It was also concluded that the management and operation of CPA Popel is Less Effective while CF Thbaeng Lech is Highly Effective in delivering resource conservation and livelihood improvement services.

A majority of CPA households are poor, with most adults being illiterate. The contribution of forest and NTFPs to the livelihoods in CPA area is high but the households in CF Thbaeng Lech are better off – 56% could read and write. CPA households did not have any land tenure securities, while about 50% of the CF group had land certificates. On the expense aspect, rice and health care are the major expenses for CPA members while rice and housing are the major expenses for CF members. Agriculture investment is the smallest share of expenses (not including labor costs) for both groups.

There, the application of better rice farming techniques and greater investment in agriculture (such as improved seeds and inputs) would contribute to the higher general income and thereby improve their livelihoods. The low or very low benefits were reportedly due to restricted access to natural resources as well as the free utilization by people outside their community; about 38% of the members perceived that forest quality had declined. The benefit level in CF group is encouraging: up to 63% of members received high and very high benefits; 25% received neutral benefits; while 2% received very low benefits. The CF forest was poorly degraded when it was given to the CF, but after CF operation, the forest grows well and the members gain more benefits then. To the question of whether they want the CBNRM activity to continue in their area or not About 67% of CPA members said yes; and 33% could not decide while 96% of the respondents in CF area said yes, and only 4% could not decide.

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