Cambodia is, in Asia, one of the fastest growing economies with rapid population growth from 6.9 million in 1980 to 16 million in 2018. As a result, the Gross National Income per capita rose from US$300 in 2000 to US$1,140 in 2016 (World Bank). As a result, Cambodia now faces the new challenge of natural resource management, the growing volume of solid waste and reliable energy production.

First, Cambodia challenges to reach sustainable natural recourse management. Consequently, its forest cover has gradually declined from 57 % to 47% between 2010 and 2014 (see the national REDD+ strategy 2017). Between 2004 in 2017, solid waste disposal in municipal landfills has drastically increased from 318,000 tons to 1.5 million ton per annum (MoE, 2018). It is notable that more than 90 % of all waste is found consists of recyclable materials (e.g. organic 55 %, plastic 21 % and textile 13%) (ibid).

Thirdly, Cambodia challenges in access to reliable energy for sustaining economic growth. Although the Government has committed to ensuring household access rates to grid quality power to reach 90 % by 2030, implying that 10 % of households may remain without access to grid quality power. 

Recognizing these challenges UNDP Cambodia with financial support from the Embassy of Sweden is formulating a project to assist the government in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, tackling the three structural challenges above.


The project focuses on the following three results:

          Output 1: CBNRM institutions strengthened and financial resources mobilised for sustainable NRM; 

          Output 2: Waste reduced, recycled and reused through application of circular economy models; 

          Output 3: Improved access to clean, affordable, and sustainable energy for the rural poor. 


“to strategically position Cambodia’s path towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals related to

1) natural resources management (NRM); 2) circular economy; and 3) clean, affordable and sustainable energy.

Voices from the FIELD

If we can keep the forest, we can earn a lot from natural resources, such as NTFPs. More importantly, we can attract tourists when they visit our community and earn money through that as well.”, said 32-year-old Yerm Roeung.

The spirit tries to protect the forest. But the forest is now gone – people are just cutting it down. “Before, we could get wild animals, fish for food and fuelwood for cooking. We would share within our community. Now that tradition is dead. We have to go buy it in the market”, 65-year-old Srey puts it.

“If we lost the forests, I also have concerns about the water availability because where there is forests, you have water,” Veng worries. “There is a close link between forests and water. If we have the forests, we still have water.”, said 72-year-old Veng in Phnom Kulen.


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