Southern Cardamom, Cambodia

The Southern Cardamom rainforest represents southeast Asia’s largest surviving rainforest habitat. Of the half a billion acres of rainforests that once covered SE Asia, now only about 5% remains; and 20% of that 5% is in Cambodia. Of that 5%, a vital portion of that is the Southern Cardamom REDD+ Project (SCRP).

SCRP is an initiative designed to promote climate change mitigation and adaptation, maintain biodiversity and create alternative livelihoods under the United Nations scheme of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+). The project’s 445,339 hectares encompasses parts of Southern Cardamom National Park and Tatai Wildlife Sanctuary. This protects a critical part of the Cardamom Mountains Rainforest Ecoregion – one of the 200 most important locations for biodiversity conservation on the planet. The Project’s climate benefits include the avoided emission of approximately 12 million t CO2e during this first monitoring period and over 115,000 million t CO2e over the lifetime of the project.

This SCRP also generates substantial community and biodiversity co-benefits. It directly supports the livelihoods of villagers living around the perimeter of the project area and is able to provide educational scholarships to some of the local residents. The local communities generally benefiting from this project represent approximately 4,000 families, and more than 16,000 individuals. 

The project supports new and sustainable livelihood opportunities through alternative income generating activities (IGAs). These initiatives are designed to stimulate investment in local businesses and by doing so, reducing pressure on the environment from activities such as logging and poaching, while significantly increasing community well-being. Additional programs will address food security, improving health and education facilities, as well as raise environmental awareness.

Biodiversity co-benefits are achieved through greater protection of the ecosystem, predominantly by means of increased security and improved monitoring. The project protects critical habitat for the Asian elephant, Asiatic black bear, sun bear, large spotted civet, clouded leopard, and dhole, as well as the critically endangered reptiles, Siamese crocodile and Southern river terrapin. Reintroduction of the tiger into the Cardamom Rainforest landscape is also being planned for the project area.

Other co-benefits provides the local communities training on intensive agricultural methods, decreasing conversion pressure on forestland. The communities have access to micro finance, enabling the adoption of new agricultural tools and practices. Participatory land use planning is provided by the project, serving to strengthen systems of land tenure. Inequities in land use rights are a well-known factor contributing to deforestation in Cambodia. Community organizations are strengthened through land use planning, while receiving new knowledge and information on land use best practices.

The community also benefits from the funding of improved health care facilities, and hiring of more health care professionals. The project also supports outreach and education to the local communities, teaching about conservation, and sensitizing the communities to the importance of this carbon project.

The project supports community based Eco-tourism, showing off a beautiful and wonderfully diverse ecosystem, while creating new jobs in the local community. The project also provides funds for hiring new teachers, improving the education system, overall.

The project area and local communities will benefit from the enhanced security and law enforcement. The scope and size of the existing ranger/community member force is enhanced, as it participates directly with the conservation of the forest within the project zone. As the Southern Cardamom REDD+ project continues its conservation work, the lasting changes resulting from this carbon project will benefit the local communities for years to comes.