This project, part of a series of APFNet projects on integrated forest ecosystem management planning in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS), was carried out by the Institute of Forest and Wildlife Research and Development (IRD) and supervised by the Forest Administration of Cambodia. It was launched in June 2017 with the goal of restoring and enhancing forest ecosystem services, while also enhancing their capacity to support local livelihoods in Cambodia. The project met its targets and goals by 1) enhancing community forests (CFs) through efficient restoration and integrated silvicultural management, and 2) significantly improving national forest monitoring capacities through high-tech approaches.
forest on June 18th, 2022. Photo: Ma Vuthy/IRD (Project coordinator)
To improve sustainable forest management in the CF, a comprehensive management plan was developed for a total area of 1,452 hectares. This plan was selected to demonstrate the improvement of CF management through developing restoration technologies and integrated management models. Additionally, as part of this project, a trial of 16 hectares for 3 restoration models and one silvicultural treatment was developed that addressed a variety of base situations and purposes:
Situation 1: Deforested (open) area: in this area full restoration was showcased as the area was not going to be able to recover on its own. Additionally, the “blank slate” provided the opportunity to grow local high-value timber species that can generate a significant income for the community in the long term. As such, the plot was divided into four blocks (one hectare each) to grow a high-value timber plantation using tree species of Pterocarpus macrocarpus, Dalbergia cochinchinensis, Dalbergia oliveri, and Tectona grandis with a total of 6,000 seedlings.
Situation 2: Severely degraded forest: this area was ideal for restoring it with a coppice system, where the community could collect firewood. For this, a single re-sprouting species, Cassia siamea, was used. Dominant trees with straight trunks in the top forest layer have remained, while small trees, shrubs and weeds under remnant trees were cleared out to reduce competition.
Situation 3: Moderately degraded forest: this system was to be restored and transformed into a multi-story, high-value forest. For this, precious trees with straight trunks were maintained, while non-valuable trees were cleared out. Additionally, the NTFP pepper and other high-value rosewood tree species such as Pterocarpus macrocarpus and Dalbergia cochinchinensis were planted.
Situation 4: Overly dense forests: the forests were treated with silvicultural measures, such as tending and thinning to reduce density and decrease shading. Then via enrichment planting timber species, such as Pterocarpus macrocarpus, Dalbergia cochinchinensis and Diptercarpus were introduced to speed up forest succession.
While the forest restoration models secure long-term income for the community, increasing livelihoods is very much a concern of the present for local inhabitants, especially as it reduces their dependency on the unsustainable use of the forest.
Agroforestry systems were seen as an acceptable way to improve local livelihoods in the short term because farmers were already engaged in farming and home gardening. However, because before the project they only planted one type of crop or one type of tree on any given area of land, they were unable to fully utilize the land. Thus the project encouraged farmers to use multi-species and multi-story agroforestry systems. Farmers who were interested and had land available were included in the project. A majority of the farms planted vegetables and other cash crops using multistory cropping. The agroforestry model included vegetables, such as eggplant, pumpkins, gourds, cucumber, and string beans as understory crops and cashew, macadamia, pomelo, sweet bamboo, and bananas to build the overstory. Additionally, soil runoff was effectively arrested by planting grass barriers, consisting of a mixture of crops including sorghum and elephant grass, lemongrass, moringa, and mango.
Furthermore, home gardens, a smaller-scale and less commercial version of agroforestry systems were set up in open areas and degraded secondary forests within the areas of farmers' households. They were trained on using these systems without having to resort to chemicals, so they could produce their food. Besides, the project introduced a water irrigation system that provided significant benefits to households, especially in the dry season. Unlike before when their production was only enough for home consumption, farmers now sell about half of the vegetables that they produce. The health care costs were also decreased during this process because local households are healthier due to the improved food availability. Thus, in the Damrey Chakthlork Community Forest, agroforestry and home gardening techniques provide both long-term and short-term financial benefits for the neighbourhood.
the farmers’ vacant lots by establishing home gardens and agroforestry systems. Photo: IRD.
A significant portion of Cambodia's forests is state-owned. Unfortunately, since state forests often cover huge geographic areas, a large number of employees would be required to maintain proper supervision and prevent problems like illegal logging and forest fires. However, this is not possible due to a lack of resources, both financial and human. These restrictions can be addressed with contemporary technologies. Thus, APFNet helped establish Forest Watcher Systems to carry out real-time forest monitoring for better forest management. The 4,368 ha large Tamao Zoo Forest in Takeo province and the Khun Ream Forest Research Station in Siem Reap province were chosen as testing grounds for this cutting-edge technology. The system itself is a high-tech platform installed on a tower that automatically tracks and detects forest fires using cameras and infrared technologies. It can be left unattended to continually monitor the surroundings all day in real-time. It has a target location precision of 100 meters and can cover a 15 km radius every 30 minutes. Able to patrol forests more quickly using fewer resources, the forest watcher system strengthened forest conservation in these two state-owned forests.
Forest Research Station in Siem Reap province. Photo: IRD.