A new self-critical government report blames deforestation on resource mismanagement and the “lack of coherent” forest policy, and suggests local communities will be given a larger role in managing and rehabilitating Cambodia’s forests in the future.
“It is recognized that participation of local people in forest management would result in sustainable supply of forest resources, instill a sense of ownership for the forest, reduce conflicts between local people and the government and contribute to their individual and collective benefit,” states the report by the country’s forestry department.
The 34-page report, issued at a forestry conference this week in Phnom Penh, characterizes reforestation as a priority in a country where the forest cover has declined from 70 percent in 1969 to an estimated 58 percent.
While the report is clear that forest land “belongs to the state” and should remain under the control of the forestry department, it also indicates that a national forest policy now being drafted will recognize that local communities also have rights to forest land.
A number of community forestry projects are under way, and NGOs have been pushing for more community access to forest land for a number of years, with mixed success.
The report notes that the Asian Development Bank currently is assisting the government in defining a community forestry policy and in preparing for an investment program at a national scale.
The report also acknowledges that at the present time, there is barely sufficient government capacity to put in place an effective land-use system that would include forest rehabilitation.