Remarks by Ms. Veena Reddy, Mission Director, USAID/Cambodia Inception and Learning Event, “Sustainable and Effective Management of Prey Lang Extended Landscape”

Wednesday, April 3, 2019
Inception and Learning Event, “Sustainable and Effective Management of Prey Lang Extended Landscape”
Inception and Learning Event, “Sustainable and Effective Management of Prey Lang Extended Landscape”

(as prepared for delivery)

  • Your Excellency, Sao Sopheap, Secretary of State, Ministry of Environment
  • Loak, neung Loak Srey
  • Good morning and Choom Reap Sue!

It is my pleasure to welcome you to the Inception and Learning Event on “Sustainable and Effective Management of the Prey Lang Extended Landscape”. USAID is thrilled to begin this constructive dialogue with civil society, community members, private sector, and national and sub-national government officials. You will have a chance to share information and knowledge about your work and strengthen your commitment and efforts to conserve the forests and biodiversity. Today’s event marks the start of an exciting new partnership between the U.S. government and the Royal Government of Cambodia through USAID’s Greening Prey Lang program. This partnership will bring all stakeholders together to preserve and sustainably manage its forests and biodiversity in Cambodia.

I would like to take this opportunity to applaud the Cambodian government for its commitment to decrease forest crimes, illegal logging, and land encroachments. The government called for forest activists and community organizations to participate in forest and natural resource protection, and I would like to appreciate His Excellency Minister Say Samal’s efforts to this end.

I would like to also recognize the efforts of civil society actors, communities and individuals who are active participants in the protection of natural resources, bringing much needed attention and energy to issues that are of grave importance to the Cambodian people and to the planet’s health.

Just last week I had the pleasure of traveling to two of the Prey Lang provinces, Stung Treng and Kratie, where I was able to speak with local communities, civil society, rangers, and local authorities on their perspectives on the effectiveness of our programs and how we can improve protection of the forest.

I appreciate you all indulging me in giving you a trip report. The two provinces have some incredibly diverse and important natural resources that are clearly under threat. From what I observed, some key themes emerge. First, every group I spoke with emphasized the need for greater sustainable economic opportunities in the areas around the protected area so as to reduce the economic incentive to extract timber.  Some of our prior work provides valuable lessons learned in this area, and it is clear that we can learn and adapt. Some of the eco-tourism sites have faced diminished prospects due to infrastructure investments. And some communities also candidly and bravely discussed their social problems that exacerbate their fragile existence. It is clear that this is a complex issue and I hope this conference will provide some solutions that are community-centric for Greening Prey Lang to incorporate into its work.

Second, many called for greater capacity for enforcement across protected areas, including better boundary demarcation and increased resources for community and Ministry patrolling. I know that Greening Prey Lang is committed to exploring these ideas and also investigating how improved technologies can help.

Finally, I’d like to share a story about a community eco-tourism group that I met in Koh Trong, in Kratie Province. This idyllic island community says that they have been self-sustaining since 2011 and have planted thousands of trees, supported livelihoods and shared their bounty of natural resources with many happy tourists. When we asked the committee chief the key to their success, he said that it was due to the transparency of their decision making, so that everyone had a say in the process and knew how decisions were made. This is the all-important third theme of this trip. I know that the government is committed to improving governance in this sector and that the Project will focus on transparency and effective decision-making as an underlying factor of all of their work. It won’t be easy, but I know by the fact that HE the Minister and all of you are here today means we have a great chance of succeeding in protecting the critical Prey Lang Extended Landscape so that future generations will continue to benefit from its resources.

USAID is proud to have supported natural resource management programs in Cambodia since 2012. Through the Supporting Forests and Biodiversity Project, we were able to mitigate nearly 12 million metric tons of carbon emissions. That is equivalent to taking two and a half million of cars off the road for an entire year! In addition, we have worked with 15,000 members of forest communities to develop alternative livelihoods, figure out ways to co-manage forests, and build evidence to better manage natural resources.  

The USAID Greening Prey Lang program is USAID’s flagship environment project. The success of this project depends on good cooperation and support from national and subnational authorities and commitment from a wide range of partners including civil society and the private sector. The Project has conducted many stakeholder consultations. These consultations are directly shaping the development of the USAID program’s strategy and have uncovered resounding themes.

Today’s agenda repeatedly calls for “dialogue”. Through this dialogue I hope we all can contribute to a better understanding of the issues and identify the problems and the solutions for achieving sustainable natural resource governance. Your active participation in this workshop is a crucial element towards this goal.  It is vitally important that your contributions and solutions to Cambodia’s natural resource management challenges are captured in these proceedings.

I believe that, together, we can preserve Cambodia’s unique and threatened natural resource base while improving the livelihoods of its people for generations to come.

I encourage everyone here today to take full advantage of this workshop and to do your part to protect Cambodia’s forested areas for its future generations.

Thank you. Akun Chiran!

Phnom Penh
Issuing Country 

Last updated: February 28, 2020

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