Communities are planting trees in Veal Veaeng, Pursat Province. ©️Manuth Buth - UNDP Cambodia

Phnom Penh, 20 October 2020 – Today, the Embassy of Sweden announced a COVID-19 response package to financially support rural communities through tree planting activities. The initiative aims to engage over 1,600 rural households in Pursat and Siem Reap provinces to plant local trees, establish nurseries, and participate in other conservation activities across the country.

This initiative will be led by the Ministry of Environment with technical support from the UN Development Programme (UNDP) under the Building an Enabling Environment for Sustainable Development (BESD) project.

The already high pressure on forests and biodiversity is on the rise due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Across Cambodia, tens of thousands of people have lost their jobs and over 100,000 migrant Cambodians have returned from neighboring countries to their hometowns in rural areas. For some, the search for money and food is becoming desperate. As a coping livelihood strategy during the crisis, an increasing number of people enter the forests to cut trees, hunt animals, and fish, causing additional pressure on already fragile ecosystems.

“It is important to mitigate the consequences of the pandemic. Sweden’s support to an immediate relief package, equivalent to SEK 4,300,000 or almost half a million US dollars, will contribute to this. It will quickly offer the most vulnerable communities income generation opportunities for tree planting to help them cope with the economic crisis. It will also contribute to the restoration of vital ecosystems,” said H.E. Björn Häggmark, Ambassador of Sweden to Cambodia.

The Ambassador further added that the initiative will run until June 2021, providing immediate employment opportunities for communities that have the greatest need through initial tree planting activities. The project will nurture these seedlings during the dry season and support another round of tree planting activity in May and June 2021.

“This cash for work programme is a timely and much needed intervention to simultaneously address the urgent needs of COVID-19 affected rural communities and the need to restore important ecosystems that are under pressure,” said H.E. Dr. Tin Ponlok, Secretary of State of the Ministry of Environment.

“This work will also enhance forest cover of the targeted areas which sequesters carbon – contributing to our ongoing fight against climate change,” continued H.E. Dr. Ponlok.

“Sweden and UNDP are committed to giving Cambodia our full support during this pandemic. This tree planting programme provides cash for work at a time when it’s needed most. And by investing in forest cover we can contribute towards a cleaner greener future for everyone”, said Nick Beresford, UNDP Resident Representative.

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