Ministry of Environment officials have granted villagers living near Kirirom National Park permission to manage and harvest 400 hectares of the park’s forest.
The 548 families of Chambak commune in Kompong Speu province will be permitted to harvest the timber for construction and private household needs, said Chay Samith, director of the Conservation Department at the Environment Ministry.
Villagers have agreed to strict terms limiting the amount of wood they can cut to ensure the forest has a chance to grow back, he said. The program will be overseen by the World Wildlife Fund and Green Shadow, a local environment group.
Earlier this year, officials redrew the boundaries of the 35,000 hectare park, returning 1,200 hectares to Chambak commune.
Environment officials had concluded that the land was already being used for farms and homes, and rightfully belonged to the villagers.
In 1997, “armed men” were found to be paying villagers to clear large tracts of land for them, local officials said. “To stop this land clearing, the villagers are asked to manage the area,” Chay Samith said.