Project innovations include floating school, underwater fish reserves
Community forestry management also promoted
One of the most unique aspects of the community management plans in FAO's project in Siem Reap Province was the creation of 12 protected fish reserves in deep spots where water can be found year-round.
The idea, explains project coordinator Patrick Evans, was to provide fish with a year-round safe haven for spawning and growth.
At first there was resistance to the idea, he notes, but as fishermen saw that the reserves helped improve catches in surrounding areas they supported the effort.
Floating Environmental Education Centre teaches environmental stewardship
The FAO Tonle Sap project also established a floating environmental education centre (the GECKO centre), staffed by members of the Siem Reap provincial Environment Department, that served local villages teaching schoolchildren about the lake's natural resources -- and the need to manage them responsibly.
By April 2005 over 5 000 children had participated in organized environmental programmes, and the educational materials developed for use in the floating school have been adapted for use by 30 different schools along the lake in Siem Reap.
Recently the UN Development Programme's new seven-year biodiversity project committed to continuing the environmental education centre and plans to establish new ones on other parts of the lake to expand environmental education for children.
Responsible forestry management also promoted
The FAO project also helped promote community-led forestry management in upland areas of the watershed surrounding the Tonle Sap Lake, establishing 40 community forestry sites in Siem Reap Province involving 79 villages and covering more than 20 000 ha.
Additionally, FAO worked with farmers along the shores to promote rainfed horticulture, helped families establish aquaculture operations, and established a microcredit organization that provides small loans of $25-50 to local small-scale entrepreneurs.
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