Draft Subdecree Would Put Forests in Villagers’ Hands

Two and a half years after the first National Workshop on Com­mu­nity Forestry, progress is be­ing made on the subdecree that will designate swaths of forests to be managed by the communities that inhabit them.

Chan Sarun, minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, said a new draft of the subdecree for com­munity forestry will be completed by the end of the month. It will provide for ru­ral communities to be involved in managing Cam­bodia’s beleaguered forests.

The project “means that the forests will be handed over to the people who can manage them properly and collect its byproducts,” Chan Sarun said.

The project is an inter-agency effort involving the ministries of Environment and Agriculture, For­estry and Fisheries, and several consulting NGOs.

The latest draft of the subdecree will be sent Friday to a task force of members of various ministries and provincial representatives.

“The goal is to support the com­munities,” Piseth Pel said. Com­munities will organize the gathering of products such as rattan, mushrooms, resin, medicines and food, as well as the protection of the “spirit trees” that posses religious value for villagers.

Under the subdecree, local au­thor­ities will be able to claim land first through provincial au­thor­ities and then through the national forestry office, Piseth Pel said.

“Another goal is to protect the forests from speculation,” said Piseth Pel, adding that concessionaires often use up land and abandon it. “If the communities don’t organize, the land will be sold to the private sector,” he said. It is yet undecided whether the subdecree will provide for com­mercial logging.

Community forestry projects are already under way in Rata­na­k­kiri, Svay Rieng, Kompong Chhnang and Pursat provinces. Though there is no national de­cree yet, local authorities have begun forming boundaries, mapping the areas to be under local control, setting up management teams and creating fire breaks.

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