Community forestry inches closer to trade carbon credits
Oddar Meanchey – For many years, Buddhist monks and villagers here have been leading the fight to protect the forests in this northwestern part of Cambodia from illegal logging and concessions. Against all odds and pressures they have met in their mission, their efforts are now about to pay off.
Thirteen community forestry sites – including the well-known Monks’ Community Forestry which is led by Buddhist monk Venerable Bun Saluth – are well on their way to begin offering carbon credits to sell to investors.
- Monks Community Forestry covers 18,261 hectares in the Northern Cambodia
With the financial support from the United Nations Development Programme, villagers are now back in the protected forest sites to survey 100 biomass plots to measure how much carbon has been sequestered, said Amanda Bradley, Community Forestry Programme Director at Pact, an international non-governmental organization in Cambodia. Pact is working with community forestry groups in the province to help them preserve the forests and biodiversity on which they depend for sources of livelihood.
“The project is already seeking investors. Most buyers that have approached our broker – Terra Global Capital – would like to buy verified carbon credits. With the UNDP funds, we are starting this process of verifying credits,” Ms. Bradley said.
She said the biomass plots, each measuring 2,500 square meters, were entered into a carbon inventory in 2008. “We need to re-measure 100 forest plots…to see how much carbon has been sequestered since the project started in February 2008,” she said.
Together, the sites make up 64,318 hectares which represent the largest concentration of community forestry in the entire country. They are home to endangered wildlife and rich in non-timber products such tree resin, medicinal herbs, and mushrooms that poor villagers rely on for food and income. Women are also among the conservation force.
Ms. Moul Nen, who leads the Samaki Community Forest, gave a simple explanation why she and many women in her village choose to volunteer in the environmental mission.
“Nearly half of the members of our forest patrol are women. Why? Because, we, as women, and our lives depend on the forest for daily survival,” said Moul Nen, 55.
Through the United Nations Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation known as UN-REDD, UNDP is collaborating with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) to assist Cambodia to be ready for REDD+ implementation at the national level. This includes development of necessary institutions, policies and capacity to manage forests to ensure the sustainable benefits for improving livelihoods, environmental services and overall economic development. All of this is part of the government’s broader target of maintaining 60% forest cover, a key indicator in the Cambodia Millennium Development Goal 7.
The country’s Forestry Administration has classified the 13 community forestry groups as a carbon offset project. The protected forest land is expected to sequester 8.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide over 30 years.
Ms. Bradley, of Pact, said that, if all goes well in the process of verification of the project during the next six months, “we can be ready to sell (carbon credits) by August.”
Ven. Bun Saluth, the leader of Monks’ Community Forestry, said his group has been very encouraged by the support of the UN-REDD programme.
“The programme is extremely important for our survival – not just in Cambodia but in the entire world,” he said.
Spanning across 18,261 hectares, the Monks Community Forestry is the biggest community forest in Cambodia. For the past decade, Ven. Bun Saluth has been at the forefront of his environmental crusade. His dedication won him the prestigious Equator Prize from UNDP in 2010. He said that since then he has been putting the prize money to good use. This includes buying food supplies, uniforms and equipment to support the work of forest patrollers, employing labor to mark the boundary of the protected forest site, and digging wells for the surrounding villagers.
“Our mission is far from over. This protected site is huge and so is the threat it constantly faces,” he said.
During a recent visit to the site, UNDP’s Resident Representative Douglas Broderick said he was very impressed by the monks’ work using Buddhist teaching of compassion for life and nature to rally followers.
“The monks told us the trees and the forests do not hate people, but unfortunately sometimes on earth people hate the trees and forests,” Mr. Broderick said.
“They gave us an example – an example of good faith, spiritual tenant and the kind of management and leadership that can help us to preserve forests in the world that is being very much deforested,” he said. “It is our responsibility to work together to preserve the Earth. Otherwise, we have nowhere else to go.”