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6. Cambodia

Country data

Total land area 1966 (thousand ha)

17 652

Total forest area 1995 (thousand ha)/% of total land area


Natural forest 1995 (thousand ha)


Total change in forest cover 1990-95 (thousand ha)/annual change (%)


Population total 1997 (millions)/annual rate of change 1995-2000 (%)


Rural population 1997 (%)


GNP per person 1995 in US$


Source of data: FAO - State of the World’s Forest, 1999
The State of Forestry in Cambodia, 18th APFC, 2000

General information

The rural economy is dominant in Cambodia, where 85% of the people are engaged in agriculture for their livelihood. They also pursue with supplementary economic activities. Those living adjacent to forests, cut trees, collect fuel wood, and non-wood forest products as part of their customary rights. During droughts and flooding, these activities are vital for securing the survival of these people. The country exports rice, rubber, timber and non-wood forest products, and precious stones. The agricultural sector employs 80% of the country’s labour force and accounts for some 50% of the GNP. Fuel, machinery and spare parts are the main import commodities.

Within the natural resources sector, forestry remains one of the most important sectors contributing to the socio-economic development of the country. Cambodia’s forests also attract international tourists, particularly in the Sien Reap region where Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples are located.

The Government has taken a number of policy and legal reforms to address problems in the forestry sector in the past several years, particularly concerning legal and illegal forest harvesting. The Prime Minister issued a declaration in 1999 regarding the following matters: a) declaring the Department of Forestry and Wildlife (DFW) of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the sole agency responsible for the forest estate; b) cracking down on illegal logging; c) ordering the military and police to assist the DFW to combat illegal logging; d) banning conversion of forest land, making a review of all concessions and formulation and adoption of a new forest law.

The important results of the above policy and legal reforms include cancellation of 12 concession agreements, reduction of illegal logging, the closure of hundreds of illegal sawmills, seizure of equipment and illegally harvested logs and wildlife. The Government, with assistance from donors, established some forest crime monitoring units and began reviewing and checking the contractual compliance of the concessionaires.

Forest resources

The forest type varies considerably from province to province. The forests in the west and north west are mostly evergreen, while those in the north-east are mainly deciduous forests. The southern and central regions have less forest cover, and thus the wood supply, particularly for fuel, is not adequate to meet the people’s needs.

Under the National Programme to Rehabilitate and Develop Cambodia and the First Socio-Economic Development Plan, a transition in land allocation to private companies and group emerged in the early 1990s. Emphasis was given to commercially-based development by leasing large land areas to investors. This was the interpretation of a market-oriented economy at that period.

During 1990-98, 6.5 million ha, or 60% of the forestlands, were officially allocated to forest concessions. There were other types of land concessions granted by the Government such as: agriculture concessions for the private sector development of rubber, cashew and oil palm plantations.

Since 1999, the Royal Government of Cambodia has cancelled 9 forest concession agreements covering an area of 2 million ha. At present, the total forest concession areas cover an area of 4.7 million ha, or 44% of the total forests in the country.

According to the recent survey undertaken by the GTZ Forest Cover Monitoring Project, which was based on the 1996/97 satellite imagery, the forest cover was 10.6 million ha, or 58% of the total area, and large areas of forests were degraded and no longer amenable to sustainable forest management. The forests are increasingly at risk because of the expanding demand for agriculture lands, timber and fuel wood. The trend is accelerated by the increase of population.

Due to the climate conditions, natural regeneration is uncertain. Artificial regeneration had been carried out from 1915 through 1972 in some poor forest areas on small scale i.e. 300 - 400 ha per year using the following species: Hopea odorata, Dipterocarpus, Tectona grandis, Pinus merkusii, and other fast-growing species for fuel wood such as Peltophorum ferugineum and Combretum quadrangulare.

Since 1985, the Department of Forestry and Wildlife (DFW) has planted an additional 2,000 ha of plantations. Presently, there are a total 7,494 ha of tree plantations. Fires have damaged some of these plantations.

In addition, DFW is co-operating with JICA to establish a Reforestation and Training Centre and a training and experimental forest. The purpose of this project is to provide training in stand inventory, tree measurement, and establish a tree nursery and conduct several forest plantation trials. DFW is also participating in the Indochina Tree Seed Project funded by DANIDA (Denmark) for a period of 3 years. Some forestry officers have been trained in seed collection and breeding techniques.

Policy and legislation

The National Forest Policy Statement and Guidelines have been revised several times to reflect the interests and needs of different groups. The document clearly states the commitment of the Government to sustainable forest management assessment and optimal allocation of land resources and the importance of local communities in the protection and management of forest resources.

The strategy of implementing the National Forest Policy is based on the following:

· Allocating appropriate forest lands as permanent forest estates;

· Maintaining sustainable management for prosperity with particular reference to conservation of biodiversity, soil, and water;

· Assuring the traditional resource use rights and privileges of communities;

· Enhancing the contribution of forestry for the welfare of the population;

· Strengthening the national economy with special attention given to equity and economic development consistent with the government policy;

· Promoting a greater participation of local communities and the private sector in forest protection, management and improvement;

· Supporting a community forestry programme.

In 1995, FAO offered technical support to draft new forestry legislation. Several missions were fielded, and a draft provisional document was prepared and submitted to the Ministry of Agriculture. In July 1996, an Inter-Ministerial National Committee for Forestry Policy was established, under the auspices of the country’s two Co-Premiers. This committee is managed by a Permanent Secretariat under an Executive Secretary, who is responsible to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Hunting, and Fisheries. The Director of the Forestry and Wildlife Department is appointed as the Executive Secretary.

The National Committee is responsible for devising, monitoring, and assessing forestry policy. This Committee co-ordinates dialogue between the Government and international aid agencies, enlists and supervises technical assistance, draws up investment programmes for the sector, and presents action reports to national authorities and donors. The Committee is also responsible for proposing any necessary measures or plans of action regarding the country’s forestry policy.

On 16 January 1997, a Consultative Group meeting (as the follow-up to the Consultative Group Meeting held in Tokyo, July 1996) was organised by the Council for Development of Cambodia. The main issues discussed included the following issues: the budgetary and tax reforms; the forestry sector; the administrative reform programme; the election legislation and organisation; and the project of reintegration of army defectors. Concerning forest and forestry related matters the meeting noted several important issues including:

· The Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) remains strongly committed to putting in place, as soon as possible, an effective control and monitoring system for forest exploitation and the trade in processed wood products over the whole country;

· An independent monitoring system is being established (SGS - a Switzerland firm was selected in December 1996, but withdrew in January 1997);

· The export of logs and sawn timber was entirely prohibited after 31 December 1996;

· The RGC decided to form a National Committee to manage and execute forest management policy, which was called the Steering Committee on Forest Policy Reform. The long-term objective of the Committee is to manage efficiently and effectively the national forest resources in environmentally and economically sustainable ways. The Committee has a mandate to conceive, follow-up, and evaluate the forestry policy;

· Since 1 January 1995, all tenders of annual permits have been suspended;

· The RGC is a member of ITTO;

· In 1995, the RGC requested the group of WB/FAO/UNDP to assess the forest policy and to propose recommendations. The re-port of the study, published in April 1996, confirmed the objectives and the strategies defined by the RGC, including:

* Limit the forest exploitation to the level of its annual increment, which was estimated at 300,000 to 350,000 m3 per year;

* Improve the revenue of the national budget by the full collection of all related taxes from wood;

* Intensify the actions against illegal cutting and exportation;

* Develop measures in favour of environmental protection and conservation of biodiversity.

Both Houses of the Parliament approved the Forestry Law. The Law provides the legal foundation for, among others: a) establishing the role and power of Government agencies in forestry administration and enforcement; b) forestland classification, including the establishment of a permanent forest estate; c) the rights and obligations of all parties involved in forest exploitation; d) conservation and protection of forests and wildlife; ande) forestry crime and penalties.

A Sub-Decree on “Forest Concession Management” was adopted on 7 February 2000 by the head of the Royal Government of Cambodia after intensive consultation with NGOs, concessionaires, and experts from WB, ADB and FAO/UNDP. The Sub-Decree provides rights and privileges to local communities and related government institutions and the private sector to participate in the process of granting a new forest concession, establishing forest concession management plans, and the monitoring of harvesting operations. The Sub-Decree also stipulates that a permanent consultative communal committee has to be established as a mechanism to facilitate discussions and comments on all issues involving concessionaires and local communities living near and inside forest concessionaire area. The Sub-Decree lays the foundation for improved industry performance by establishing a competitive bidding process for the future concession management and planning.

The Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries officially declared the Code of Practice for Forest Harvesting on 26 July 1999. The document was prepared under a loan from the World Bank and with assistance from a consulting firm.

The Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries decided to reassess all the concession contracts to better adapt the felling permits. The concession holder has the obligation to present a forest inventory, a master plan, and an environmental impact assessment.

With assistance from ADB, the Government undertook a comprehensive review of all 20 concessionaires. The review commenced in July 1999 and was finished in April 2000. It concluded that without dramatic and immediate changes the current system could not ensure the implementation of the sustainable management of the forest resources.

To curtail illegal logging and other breaches of laws, a forest crime monitoring and reporting project has been established to build the capacity and infrastructure for proper monitoring and reporting of violations. UNDP/FAO and the WB provided technical assistance and the United Kingdom and Australia provided funds for the first year’s operation. The Government has created a Focal Point for monitoring and reports. The Government endorsed the use of the Global Witness for independent monitoring to ensure the achievement of the project’s goals and objectives. The systems are comprised of three major elements, as follows: a) prevention, b) detection, and c) suppression.

Community forestry

The important role and contribution of the community forestry programmes and activities toward rural development have been fully recognised by the Government. The Government has received support from several international institutions for community forestry development in some provinces, including ADB, FAO/UNDP, GTZ, and IDRC/RECOFT. From the results of these supports, the Government was able to formulate a guideline for community forestry, which is intended to provide practical strategies and operational guidance to community forestry programmes and activities.

However, the implementation of the community programme throughout the country would require huge financial resources, for which the Government could not consider taking loans as an alternative for funding. Therefore, the size and scope of the community forestry programmes will solely depended on donor assistance.

Planning and programming

In 1992, a Provisional Authority of the United Nations in Cambodia was established with the task of paving the way to free elections and providing the new government with as much information as possible concerning the country’s situation in all economic and social development sectors, as well as prospects of international co-operation. A seminar concerning the best use of Cambodian forests within a sustainable development framework was organised on 12-14 July 1993, and concluded the following:

1. Protection and development of the forest heritage
The basis of any policy ensuring sustainable development of the forest heritage for the sake of future generations lies in forest protection. Protection and conservation are the keystones for maintenance of the environmental, social, cultural, and economic value of forests.

The rapid degradation of Cambodia’s forests is mainly caused by a growing demand for fuel wood and increasing illegal cutting of trees for other uses from natural forests. Forest protection entails reformation of forestry legislation, improving manpower skills, a properly equipped forestry service, and increasing people’s participation and involvement.

People’s participation must be officially recognised and encouraged through appropriate incentives, so that it will be ensured throughout the process, from the initial drafting of plans and programmes, through to their implementation. Priority should be given to the need for immediate measures to protect the most threatened forest ecosystems, especially the Tonle Sap flood forests, the Kirirom Plateau pine (Pinus merkusii) forests, and mangroves around the Angkor archaeological area.

2. Sustainable management
Sound and sustainable management of forest resources requires a well-trained and professional forestry service, and a strong sense of duty and responsibility to the country’s present and future generations.

To ensure that the forest exploitation is properly conducted, a plan must be drawn up specifying the annual allowable cut, including post-harvest forest operations.

Some immediate political, administrative, and technical measures should be implemented, particularly the following:

· illegal cutting should be abolished;

· an inventory of all wood-processing facilities, and the closure of those illegally established;

· harvesting areas should be defined;

· medium- and long-term harvesting zones administered by a properly established policy should be defined;

· precise rules for the allocation of cutting rights and industrial processing should be established;

· the people’s role in both operations and benefits in forest management should be specified.

3. Enforcement of forestry policy
The log export ban declared by the CNS on 22 September 1992 and the adoption of quotas for exports of processed-wood in February 1993 were positively judged as conservation measures.

The participants strongly recommended that these conservation measures be maintained so long as the Cambodian forestry service does not have clear guidelines regarding the implementation of the forest legislation and regulations, land-use plans for production forests, and the means to implement such guidelines. If the rules are to be strictly applied, collaboration and co-operation with the relevant services involved in forestry sector development are essential.

4. International co-operation
To achieve the forestry sector development goals, international assistance and support are needed and various actions are under way. Financial support will be essential in the immediate future. Although the Cambodian government is responsible for choosing priorities for action and identifying which areas need technical and financial assistance, the seminar appealed to international and bilateral development aid agencies to provide immediate technical and financial support to initiate a national strategic planning process.

A July 1994 seminar recommended that a strategic planning process within the Cambodian National Forestry Programme process should be adopted. Within the process, the following actions were recommended to be carried out as soon as possible:

· Revision and refinement of forestry legislation in order to ensure the protection of the natural heritage for its social, cultural, and economic development for today and the future generations;

· Formulation of a national forestry policy based on the principles of social justice, sustainable development, people’s participation, and transparency;

· Adoption of a forest land-use plan, as part of a more comprehensive land-use plan covering all sectors (agriculture, fisheries, industry, energy, etc.), including protected areas (natural parks, biological reserves, watershed protection forests, etc.), recreational forests, and production forests;

· Formulation of short- and medium-term action plans including defining the objectives of programmes and projects based on the national forestry policy;

· Reorganisation of the forestry service to ensure its capability to implement the national forestry policy;

· Renewal and intensification of forestry education in order to produce qualified field staff having a sense of public service, and skilled senior staff;

· Resumption of applied forestry research through rehabilitation of various trial facilities, and dissemination of technical results;

· Rationalisation of timber industries development for the benefit of the people of the country as a whole;

· Development of schemes to improve the quality of urban life through planting trees, especially along the road sides and other areas;

· Encouragement of participatory rural development so that agricultural production can be intensified, taking into account various socio-economic factors, particularly poverty, population growth, lack of education, and poor infrastructure;

· Development of community forestry, which includes agriculture, livestock, aquaculture, and fisheries;

· Women’s participation in the process of formulating and implementing projects;

· Awareness campaigns and grassroots education on the important role of forests and the value of the natural heritage, and why everyone should commit to safeguard it;

· Explore appropriate technical and financial assistance support from international and bilateral aid agencies.

The NFAP Basic Principles and Operational Guidelines document was translated into the Khmer language in June 1994, and the First National Seminar on the Cambodian National Forestry Programme was organised in August 1994. Ninety people attended the Seminar, including representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Social Welfare and Labour, Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Ministry of the Interior and Defence, and representatives from several international organisations and NGOs.

The Government approved an NFAP Project Document (of two-year duration) at the end of 1994, but in early 1995 UNDP decided to restrict its action to preliminary assistance in getting the process under way.

In October 1995, following consultations between FAO, UNDP, and the World Bank, it was decided that a joint policy evaluation mission should study the forest conditions and timber harvesting operations, and analyse how forestry concessions were fielded. This policy analysis was carried out in November 1995, and the provisional report was submitted to the government in early 1996. The final report was ready in June 1996. The report recommended several policy options for forestry concessions, harvesting, and timber exports, and proposed four immediate actions:

· Identification of possible forms of legislation on forestry concessions;

· Definition of criteria and procedures for analysing harvesting proposals;

· Development and use of survey techniques to establish initial inventories prior to the issuance of a concession licence;

· Inception of a comprehensive strategic planning process laid down by the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests of the Commission for Sustainable Development covering the development of (a) a forestry policy, (b) implementation strategies for the policy, and (c) investment programmes.


Wildlife in Cambodia is increasingly threatened by loss of habitat caused by increasing population pressure, deforestation, hunting, trade and landmines. Deforestation and forest degradation are threatening many valuable plants and wildlife species with extinction. Removal of a few commercial species in the appropriately selective cutting implementation will impoverish genetic resources.

The Prime Minister officially opened the Zoological Park and the Wildlife Rescue Centre covering an area of 1,200 ha. The Park has conserved 500 wildlife, including 86 species of birds, mammals and reptiles.

A Royal Decree designating a conservation reserve for Sarus Crane habitat covering an area of 12,650 ha at Trapaing Thmar, Phnom Srok district, Banteay Meanchey province was issued on 22 February 2000. In addition, the Department of Forestry and Wildlife discovered the central Cardamom-mountains to be a national treasure due to the richness in diversity of plants and animals, including elephants, tigers, and wild Siamese crocodiles. These mountains are now considered to be one of Indochina’s most important areas for biodiversity conservation.

Utilisation and marketing

The Government cancelled all permits to set up sawmills in order to eliminate the use of illegal wood supplies. This was carried out after the issuance of Declaration No. 1 concerning “Measures to Management of Forests and the Elimination of Illegal Forest Activities” of 25 January 1999. However, the forest concessionaires have been authorised to install veneer, sawmill and furniture plants and they have the right to export their products.

Fuel wood is the biggest wood product, and is the principal source of fuel in the country. It was estimated that 6 million m3 of fuel wood are collected every year to meet the need for cooking and industrial kilns.

Timber and timber products, which are mainly dipterocarps, are exported to Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Japan, Lao PDR, United States of America, China, India, Korea PR, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Russia. The export of logs was prohibited in 1997 and since then the local processing of logs has been promoted. Table 1 shows the trend of exports of timber and timber products of the country. The Table shows that the government policy on promoting local processing and prohibiting exports of logs took effect in 1997.

All the edaphic forests and about 2.8 million ha of other forests, which are part of the National Protected Areas System (established in 1993 and comprised of 23 parks), were allocated for biodiversity preservation. A total of 3,568,000 ha (19.7% of the country’s land area) is under legal protection.

Table 1: Export of Timber 1993-1999 in m3



Sawn timber



























Theoretically, the timber stock available for commercial harvesting (above 40 cm in diameter) varies from 30 m3/ha in deciduous forests, to 80 m3/ha in evergreen forests. However, for sustainable selective harvesting, the volume available for commercial harvesting is only 10 m3 in deciduous forests and 20 m3/ha in evergreen forests.

Local consumption of wood and forest products is high. The total annual consumption for fuel wood is about 6 million m3, and for construction timber it varies from 1.0 to 1.5 million m3.

Collaboration with Partners and International Agreements

Several international institutions and NGOs have been providing support to the forestry sector development in Cambodia. International institutions and donors include WB, UNDP, UNCHR, FAO, ITTO, ADB, GTZ, EU, JICA, AusAID, SIDA, DANIDA, DFID-UK. Those from NGOs include CARE, CONCERN, IUCN, WWF, APAFRI. These NGOs assist the country mostly in the field of community participation in planning, management and monitoring in the rural development, protected areas and forest resource development.

The country receives support from the Indochina Seed Tree Project executed in Cambodia, Lao PDR and Vietnam with assistance from DANIDA (Danish International Aid Agency). In addition, the country also receives support from a regional project entitled “Sustainable Management of Natural Resources in the Lower Mekong Basin” funded by Germany and implemented by the Mekong River Commission and GTZ. The main aim of the project is to support upland farming and hill tribe minorities and build a network of information exchange of successful land use concepts via the internet.

The Royal Government of Cambodia is signatory to several international conventions, including wetland protection under RAMSAR; monitoring and protection of endangered plant and animal species under CITES; the Convention on Combating Desertification; and Biodiversity Convention. DFW will be signing an agreement with a University representing the US Cancer Research Institute under the Ministry of Health concerning the right of the University to collect plant material and information on traditional medicine for screening of a cancer reducing chemical compound.

Focal point
Ty Sokhun
Director General of Forestry and Wildlife
Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
40 Norodom BLVD, Phnom Pehn
The Royal Government of Cambodia
Tel: 855-12-855777
Fax: 855-23-212201


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