Environmental groups that gathered at the Himawari Hotel in Phnom Penh on Friday said that tens of thousands of rural Cambodians could benefit from the development of the country’s resin industry.
At a conference held by the Non-Timber Forest Products Exchange Program for South and Southeast Asia and attended by the WWF, participants said that increasing the production of resin could play a vital role in protecting the livelihoods of forest dwellers, many of whom belong to indigenous groups and are based in the Cambodia’s northeastern provinces.
“The importance and contribution of oleoresin [liquid resin] to a significant population in Cambodia is undeniable, and yet runs the risk of being taken for granted by virtue of it being common and largely informally traded,” the Non-Timber Forest Products Exchange Program said in a statement.
Resin has a variety of uses when mixed with other substances, and is used in the production of fuel, lacquer, glue and varnish.
According to 2009 figures from forest program, more than 100,000 people in Cambodia depend on resin production for their income and annual revenues generated from the resin trade are estimated to be between $4.7 and $7.8 million.
Pek Sam On, a community empowerment facilitator at Ponlok Khmer, an NGO based in Preah Vihear province, said his and other organizations were helping farmers to organize a proper business model around resin production as a way to increase yields.
He said community-based enterprises are being set up around the country to patrol forests for illegal logging activities and to produce maps of areas where resin trees are growing. Efforts are also being made to train farmers in invoicing and financial reporting.
Resin production is “an important, traditional form of small business,” Mr Sam On said, adding that Vietnamese buyers are currently purchasing about 200 tons of resin a year.
Still, with economic land concessions in the northeastern provinces fast growing in number, resin production could come under threat as trees are felled to make way for privately owned agro-industry farms.
Son Bora, an official from WWF’s Mondolkiri office, where 19,726 hectares of resin trees are monitored, said 150 families who own approximately 46,000 trees are constantly being menaced by land encroachment from economic land concessions and mining in the area.