Cambodia strengthens community forestry


In 2010 the Royal Government of Cambodia issued its policy and long-term strategy for sustainable forest management in Cambodia, allocating 2 million hectares of forest to Community Forestry (CF) by 2029.

The role of CF in the sustainable management of forest resources remains as relevant as ever: according to Cambodia’s 2018 Community Forestry Statistics, approximately 500 000 hectares of forests have already been assigned to 636 CFs, and 439 CFs have signed Agreements with the local Forestry Administration (FA). However, only 85 CFs have approved Community Forestry Management Plans (CFMPs), and continued guidance is needed for community forests on how to legally harvest timber and sustain livelihoods through the sale of the timber harvested within CF areas. Timber harvesting is typically capital-intensive, technically complex, and as such increases the cost of the final product. As a result, many CF communities feel that they cannot compete with timber coming from illegal sources.

To this effect, the FAO-EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Programme has partnered with RECOFTC to draft technical and legal procedures for CF timber harvesting, with the ultimate aim to establish CF as a sustainable source of legal timber.

The project is one of two inaugural projects that the Programme has launched in Cambodia, supporting the implementation of the European Union’s FLEGT Action Plan to address deforestation in tropical timber-producing countries.

Guiding harvests in Community Forests

There is no precedent of legal timber harvests from CF areas due to the absence of technical and legal guidelines for harvesting timber. The legal and technical procedures to be developed will provide community-friendly guidelines for harvesting timber in the CF context sustainably. The proposed guidelines may include approval processes, benefit-sharing mechanisms, tree marking, and rapid market analyses to sell harvested timber.

Working closely with the local FA cantonments, RECOFTC will test the proposed procedures through a pilot harvest. After the pilot harvest, stakeholders will visit the sites to consult directly with members of the concerned communities and to understand the impact of the proposed procedures.

Based on the results of these consultations, together with the results of the pilot, RECOFTC, through the multi-stakeholder Sub-Working Group on FLEGT, will submit the draft legal and technical procedures to the FA.

 Supporting national policy processes

To develop these legal and technical procedures, RECOFTC will draw upon previous efforts, namely recommendations on possible updates to the regulations governing CFs, known as Prakas. These include proposals on updates to royalty payments on community timber, the promotion of private forest investment for communities, and the development of simple guidelines and training to increase economic benefits from CF management.

The planned activities feed into broader administrative steps currently being taken by the Cambodian Government across the forestry sector. The Ministry for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) has identified a range of legal reform priorities including taxation, planting regulations and Environment & Social Impact Assessment regulations.

In parallel, RECOFTC will provide inputs to the definition of legality for timber sourced from CF areas, in the form of specific indicators and legal references that can be directly inserted into the legality definition of standard.

RECOFTC will also promote gender mainstreaming in timber harvesting through a dedicated event for national forest and environmental authorities, with the aim to inform and influence gender integration in the forestry sector. This meeting’s outcomes will feed into the revised regulatory framework by providing recommendations for realizing the adequate and legitimate representation and leadership of women in the forest sector.

The FAO-EU FLEGT Programme of the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations is a global demand-driven initiative that provides technical support and resources for activities that further the goals of the EU’s FLEGT Action Plan. The Programme is funded by the European Union, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office of the United Kingdom.