In Chi Phat, Wildlife Alliance and the community members are working together to preserve the environment while providing exciting and unique experiences for visitors. Villagers who once roamed the forest to deplete it of its environmental heritage are now employed as guides leading trekking, mountain-biking, camping, and river boat tours through the wilderness surrounding both communities. By creating stakeholders out of local residents, the impetus to keep improving the project is strong and those villagers who have joined the CBET and participated in its activities have seen their incomes grow exponentially.
In June, the Community-Based Ecotourism (CBET) project welcomed a new Project Manager, Martin Leighfield. Originally from the UK, Martin has lived and worked in Cambodia for over 16 years. He has extensive experience in the hospitality industry and has also developed a community-based tourism project on Koh Trong Island in Kratie province. He has a lot of great ideas for the project, and we are very excited to have him on the team. He has already begun implementing several new initiatives to expand the project, as well as improve the tourism experience. He has started to institute a new computerized booking system and is currently updating the CBET website. For the upcoming year, Martin has plans to improve the communication skills of the trek guides through classes, initiate a volunteer program, and create more child-friendly activities at the project.
This January, CBET signed an agreement with Andoung Teuk Transport Association to partner in transporting guests to and from Chi Phat by boat. This agreement was endorsed by the provincial Department of Transportation and both commune leaders. Previously, very few boats ran, and visitors had to hire a whole boat ($30), and it was hard to team up with others to share the cost. Arriving guests suffered confusion and harassment at Andoung Teuk, and were ill-disposed to CBET before arriving. Now, every day at 7:00am, at least one 4-passenger boat leaves Chi Phat, taking guests to catch buses at Andoung Teuk. The boat driver waits to bring guests back at about 1:00pm. The visitor center sells tickets ($10 one-way), and pays boat drivers $25 per round trip. CBET inaugurated the scheduled boat services to Andoung Teuk last month. Also, a new bar was also built in the visitor center. The bar will serve as an area where guests will receive pre-trek talks, to better inform visitors about the project and what to expect.
It is currently the peak season for tourism in Cambodia, and in January alone, CBET received 350 domestic visitors and 169 international visitors. The project earned a total income of $19,021.11, of which $13,635.08 went to villagers and $5,386.03 to the CBET community fund. New members were admitted to CBET, and there are now 250 members. These new successes and improvements would not have been possible without your support!
On Tuesday, December 3rd, Sophany Touch, Chi Phat’s Community Development Officer, was selected to present his project on Zero Waste Community-Based Ecotourism at the Community Solutions event in Washington D.C. Sophany was one of 12 finalists, peer-selected from 58 projects that were submitted to the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX). His proposed project focuses on implementing a zero waste strategy at Wildlife Alliance’s Community-Based Ecotourism project in Chi Phat. This project focuses on diverting waste from Chi Phat’s landfills and promoting the recycling and reusing of materials to community members and local schools. The results are a litter free community, a reduction of methane into the atmosphere, an increase in tourism and economic benefits to the community, and ultimately conservation of the rainforest and wildlife.
Sophany Touch, who has worked with Wildlife Alliance since 2009, was invited to participate as a community leader in the 2013 Community Solutions program. This program is implemented by the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX) and funded by the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. It is a professional development program that matches 58 global leaders with 55 American organizations to “improve their capacity for local community development and serve as ambassadors for increased mutual understanding.” Sophany partnered with Citizens’ Environmental Coalition in Houston, TX where he met with organizations involved in ecotourism, forestry, waste management and green school initiatives and learned about recycling markets, composting and community gardens.
We would like to congratulate Sophany on his excellent work! You can help help him realize his goals of zero waste at Chi Phat by making a gift today!
We are excited to announce that Chi Phat’s own Community Development Officer, Sophany Touch, has been invited to participate as a community leader in this year’s Community Solutions program, a project implemented by the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX) and funded by the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
This professional development program matches 58 global leaders with 55 American organizations to “improve their capacity for local community development and serve as ambassadors for increased mutual understanding.” Sophany has been partnered with Citizens’ Environmental Coalition (CEC) in Houson, TX and will work with local environmental groups to develop ecotourism programs in the area. This four-month fellowship, which also includes a web-based leadership course developed by IREX, will give him the skills and connections necessary to create a plan for a new initiative in Cambodia. Upon his return to Cambodia, Sophany plans to focus his work on identifying the existing and future threats to food security in relation to climate change and natural resource management. We are thrilled and proud that Sophany has been chosen for this incredible opportunity, and look forward to hearing about his experience. You can read more about Sophany and the Community Solutions program in IREX and CEC’s press release below.
In April, Wildlife Alliance forged an absolute connection with Absolute Travel, “the world’s top luxury travel specialists, creating your ideal journey,” offering travelers the opportunity to go on socially and environmentally-conscious journeys to Cambodia, visiting Wildlife Alliance’s forest and wildlife conservation projects. This is the first organized ecoadventure tour in the region.
Travelers will have the chance to discover the pristine beauty of the Cardamom Mountains by patrolling with the forest rangers who keep this habitat safe; get up close and personal with the 1,200 animals that have been rescued from the illegal wildlife trade and are receiving care at the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center; connect with the community members of Sovanna Baitong who have transformed their lives from being former illegal poachers and loggers to sustainable farmers and small business owners; explore the natural wonders of Chi Phat’s ecotourism project, situated amid stunning mountains, rivers, rainforests, wetlands and mangroves; and relax in luxurious four-star floating tents on the Tatai river.
Absolute Travel’s philanthropic endeavor is the link for travelers who want to experience life-changing trips while creating a deep, meaningful connection with the people and places they see. This new travel opportunity enables people to do good by nurturing the places and communities they visit. This absolute connection will be the gateway to increasing the awareness and sustainability of Wildlife Alliance’s projects in Cambodia.
“Wildlife Alliance’s holistic approach to protecting Cambodia’s jungles and wildlife immediately struck a chord with Absolute Travel. Our partnership makes perfect sense; together we are enabling others to experience the wild beauty of the Cardamom Mountains and observe their vital fieldwork firsthand. There is nothing more powerful than witnessing the Wildlife Alliance team inspiring people to care.”
--Katie Losey, Marketing Manager, Absolute Travel
For more information on this emerging ecotourism destination, ecotourism resorts and Absolute Travel’s exclusive philanthropic journey to Cambodia, visit Wildlife Alliance’s Absolute Awareness page. Help Wildlife Alliance continue to alleviate poverty through ecotourism income while preventing the destruction of the rainforest and its wildlife.
Last year, Wildlife Alliance took supporters and Advisory Board members on a frequently wild, oftentimes touching, and definitely life-changing trip to our projects in the Southern Cardamom Mountain range of Cambodia. One aspect of the tour included a visit to our Community-Based Ecotourism (CBET) projects in Chi Phat and Trapeang Roung. These projects are located in the Southwestern part of the Cardamom Mountains. Situated amid stunning mountains, rivers, rainforests, wetlands and mangroves, and home to a vibrant and unique array of wildlife, they are ideal destinations for tourists looking for an ecological adventure. What better way to thank our supporters for all their help in making this project “the best community-based ecotourism destination in Cambodia,” than by showing them firsthand the work we do in Chi Phat and Trapeang Roung.
We began our journey with a helicopter ride from the Reforestation Program over the mountains to the O’Malu Waterfall, all the while taking in spectacular views of the Cardamom mountain range. When we arrived, we were greeted by curious children enjoying the day with their families. After swimming, jumping off rocks and devouring a wonderful picnic lunch by the water, we decided to go back to the village by mountain bike. On our way back, we were surprised with an unexpected thunderstorm! This turned a normally rugged ride into a treacherous journey. However, our group enjoyed the challenge and took it in good spirit. Upon our arrival to the village (after drying off of course), we were welcomed by the CBET Committee, where they shared with us the work CBET does to provide rural families with resources to establish and maintain their own businesses. Through CBET, community members can earn an income from sustainable family-run businesses in ecotourism, rather than destructive and illegal poaching and logging. After a long day, we celebrated with dinner and cocktails! For a chance to meet the communities we serve, and too see firsthand how Wildlife Alliance creates alternative sustainable livelihoods, join us for this year’s Field Visit in November. For more information on this once in a lifetime adventure, click here, or contact Beth Eisenstaedt at email@example.com or 646-569-5861.
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Communications and Finance Field Liaison