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Protecting indigenous rights reduces deforestation in Cambodia
Since 2010, WCS through a combination of securing indigenous rights to their forests, and supporting government ranger and community ecoguard patrols has prevented 14,000 hectares of deforestation and avoided emissions of 10,000,000 tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere. This verified REDD+ (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) project is now able to sell these avoided emissions credits to generate long-term funding to support indigenous communities and forest conservation in the Seima Protection Forest in Cambodia.
For 15 years, WCS has been supporting the Forestry Administration to manage the Seima Protection Forest in east-central Cambodia. Seima was designated as a REDD+ National Demonstration Site under the National Forest Program and the Cambodia REDD+ National Roadmap. It is unique as it is the only protected area in Cambodia where “maintaining carbon storage” is an explicit objective by law. Rigorous future scenarios modelling by WCS predicted that effective conservation efforts could halt deforestation reducing the amount of CO2 entering the atmosphere by over 14 million tons during the next decade. To achieve the level of avoided forests loss predicted by the models, WCS has been supporting the Bunong people, who are the traditional residents of the Seima forest, to secure Indigenous Communal Land Title from the Government. We are also helping them to develop participatory land-use plans, and to protect their rights by organizing and conducting regular community patrols. These patrols not only deter illegal resources uses within Bunong traditional territory, they greatly reinforce and expand the spatial scale of patrols by Government law enforcement officers, that are also supported by WCS.
By securing indigenous land rights and with future, sustained funding through REDD+ carbon sales, WCS has put in place the necessary conditions to protect, over the long-term, the largest remaining population of two globally endangered primates – 1000 yellow-cheeked crested gibbons and 20,500 black-shanked doucs.
The WCS led REDD+ project covers 1,879 km2 of the Seima Protection Forest, and has already prevented 140 km2 from being deforested.
Development and implementation of community land-use management plans and most importantly regular community patrols has greatly strengthened the ability of the Government to reinforce and protect the land and resource use rights of the Bunong people, and to conserve this unique landscape where lowland dry dipterocarp forest meets the evergreen foothills of the Annamite mountains.
By supporting the National REDD+ process WCS has strengthen the authority, capacity and power of both Government agencies and indigenous communities with jurisdiction to govern access to and use of Seima forest resources.
A census in 2010 recorded 6,028 people living in 20 villages inside the REDD+ project area. By 2015 WCS technical and political assistance resulted in seven of these villages being awarded Indigenous Communal Land Titles greatly increasing the secure access to their traditional agricultural lands and to forest resources.
Using current rates of deforestation outside, WCS staff were able to predict likely forest loss within the Seima Protection Forest if no conservation actions were taken. An analysis of satellite images between 2010 and 2016 show that deforestation was much lower than expected, demonstration the positive impact of our conservation efforts.