Our eco-tourism project in Chi Phat was written up in the UK's Metro! Below is a sneak peak at the article, click on the link to read it in its entirety.
"If you like plush hotels, then the jungle village of Chi Phat in Cambodia’s Cardamom Mountains isn’t for you. During my time here, I’m caked in mud, snacked on by mosquitoes and regularly watching leeches fall from my body, bloated on my blood. But for the committed traveller keen to genuinely get off the beaten track, this is an authentic slice of rural Cambodian life. The people in the village are welcoming and curious, the trekking through pristine jungle and meadows is a world away from mundane realities, and the big draw, which I’m here to test out, is a 57km mountain-biking trail that takes in an ancient burial jar site."
Bill Brower is a Field Program Officer with GlobalGiving who is visiting our projects throughout Southeast Asia. From January 30-February 1 he visited the Wildlife Alliance community-based ecotourism project in Chi Pat.
Destruction of natural habitat and illegal hunting are the two biggest threats to wildlife in most forested areas in the tropics. The area where Wildlife Alliance (WA) works in southwestern Cambodia, part of the second largest contiguous forest in Southeast Asia, is no different. In addition to pushing for the expansion of protected areas and ensuring the integrity of areas that are protected, WA and many other organizations have learned over the years that conservation efforts will not ultimately be sustainable unless the communities in and near the forests have economic alternatives to hunting, logging and slash-and-burn agriculture.
This has led WA to develop a community-based ecotourism (CBET) project in the fairly remote village of Chi Pat. If it is easier and more lucrative to make a livelihood, directly or indirectly, in support of the tourism industry, this reduces local drivers of habitat destruction.
To make the ecotourism program itself sustainable, it should be able to operate entirely on local capacity and related income. WA is firmly committed to this goal, with the question “How will this work when we’re not here?” often repeated. This attitude is perhaps the best part of WA’s approach. Though it appears they are still a ways off, they have progress. They claim to need 80 visitors a month to balance out expenses; in 2009, they were just a bit short at 829 visitors for the year. There is also a local council, with representatives voted on by the community, in charge of sub-groups that focuses on about eight key areas—from tour guides and cooks to sanitation. While all appear dedicated to their jobs, it seemed in my discussion with them that they are still a few years away from this group being able to effectively and independently run all the necessary components of the operation to keep it running for decades to come.
But with WA trainings and experience, it seems it will come, as will the tourists. This spot, featured in many young travelers’ gospel, Lonely Planet, has a lot to offer. Mountain biking, kayaking, multiday nature treks, historical relics, a great restaurant run by the ecotourism group and comfortable guesthouses. If you’re ever in the area, you should stop by. And if you like the comprehensive approach Wildlife Alliance is taking to conservation, consider continuing to support their project. Thanks!
On January 8, 2010, Royal Cambodian Government officials, provincial and district governors, commune chiefs, village chiefs, villagers from Chi Phat, and Wildlife Alliance staff celebrated the official opening of the new Chi Phat Visitors' Center.
The Center is built out of eco-friendly bamboo that was collected in the village area. It is the first engineered bamboo structure in Cambodia. The structure includes a courtyard, an exhibition area with a rainforest & wildlife conservation display and more information about the Community Based Ecotourism Project (CBET), a restaurant, a management office, and a meeting and training room. These new amenities provide guests with more comfort and provide the Chi Phat committee with a central place to hold meetings and workshops.
Our Community Based Ecotourism Project (CBET) has come a long way since it began in 2007. It operates out of the Chi Phat Commune -- a group of four villages that is home to about 550 families and sits on the banks of the Piphot River in Cambodia's Cardamom Mountains. Last year Chi Phat had over 670 paying guests; with revenue going back into the community to support the villagers who provide guest service. Revenues additionally support the Chi Phat Community fund which helps to improve the villages’ education, water supply, roads, and access to health care and so on.
Over the past 2 years, the villagers of Chi Phat have been busily developing trails and camping sites, constructing the Visitors’ Center, and converting their homes into guesthouses. They also have been learning how to maintain mountain bikes, speak basic English, honing their hospitality skills, as well as taking cooking classes, just to name a few!
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Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.
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