A Community-Created Conservation Area
This story was written by a participant of Oxfam’s Mekong Youth Engagement and Storytelling Workshop. Each story provides a local perspective on some of the broader work we do to support communities, including natural resource management, saving for change, women and youth empowerment and bringing communities together.
The Samot Leu Samot Krom natural protected area exists in Lum Phat district in the North-East province of Rattanakiri, Cambodia.
The 1280 hectare area is bordered by several commercial timber companies, including Chinese company Feng Shui and Sam Vang, as well as the Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuary.
Since 2009, the roughly 2,000 residents of the community, many of whom are indigenous Tompoun, who have farmed and hunted the area for generations, came into conflict with these commercial companies thanks to the economic land concessions that were granted to them by the government.
The companies encroached on the wildlife sanctuaries that the local communities depended on for their livelihoods, clearing forests and ignoring sacred sites and traditions.
In 2015, the community met with local authorities to draft a proposal to create a nature protected area to preserve the natural resources for next generation.
The community was officially recognized by the Ministry of Environment in June. 2015, who appointed Son Smien, a 40-year-old Tompuon man as head of the community committee in Samot Loeu village.
From 2015-2018. Wildlife Rescue Organisation with the support of Oxfam, helped the community committee and local authorities help resolve the conflict between the community and the timber companies.
They created clear demarcation boundary processes, as well as forest rehabilitation and management plans to ensure natural resources were used sustainably.
Head of the Community Protected Area committee, Bun Maneas, 30, said the community had also been trained by the Ministry of Environment to set up forestry patrols in the area to protect the forests from illegal logging and poaching, as well as providing legal training to the villages on criminal procedures.
Additionally, the committee was invited on study tours to established eco-tourism sites managed by local communities, in order to learn about alternative ways their community could make a living.
Community committee member Phal Nita, 20, has been going out on forest patrols and participates in conservation work in the area.
She said she enjoyed creating products that didn’t come from timber, such as bamboo and resin, and relished her new knowledge she gained from her training.
“We are aware of the rights and roles in the community relating to the use of natural resources and the processing of these non-timber products as a family income,” she said.
“We are also involved in activities such as monthly meetings, patrolling, and sharing our knowledge with other villagers.”