In 2004, Wildlife Alliance worked with 187 landless families to help them escape poverty and generate a sustainable and dependable income. The Community Agriculture Development Project (CADP) was implemented in Sovanna Baitong for forest dwellers previously engaged in destructive slash-and-burn farming practices and wildlife poaching. Today, each family lives and works on their own 1.5 hectares of agricultural land, growing cash and subsistence crops using modern agricultural methods, like efficient drip irrigation, to generate income year round. However, in order for any community project to achieve autonomy, it is vital for it to be economically self-sufficient, politically supported by regional and national governments, and locally driven and managed. This year, the Community Agriculture Development Project at Sovanna Baitong moves closer to achieving all of these goals.
One of the first steps taken to achieve financial sustainability was the creation of the Community Orchard, which will increase income for community members through the cultivation of high-yield cash crops. The development of the Community Orchard began at the end of last year, and if projections bear out, the orchard should be fully supporting the community within 3-5 years.
On March 18, the Ministry of Interior officially recognized the community of Sovanna Baitong as a township. A ceremony was held on May 9 with representatives from the local, provincial and district government in attendance. This kind of regional support for the community is necessary to ensure the long term success of the project.
And lastly, at the beginning of this year, the project was handed over to Khmer staff for management. The project was always designed to empower civil society and incorporate community members in decision-making processes. However, passing on leadership responsibilities to Cambodians will ensure that the project is internally motivated to stay active. In January, Ms. Pich Sokhany succeeded Gil-ad Chen as the project manager of both CADP and the Tropical Reforestation Project. Sokhany is both qualified and well suited for the position. She graduated from the Royal University of Law and Economics in Phnom Penh with a degree in Accounting, and has worked as the assistant manager and accountant for the project since 2007. Having risen through the ranks as a female manager in a male-dominated field, she has accomplished a great deal and has proved to be a determined and effective leader. She cares passionately about Wildlife Alliance’s mission to alleviate poverty, and protect forests and wildlife, and is excited to help CADP transition into a self-reliant autonomous community.
Help the community of Sovanna Baitong achieve autonomy and sustainability by making a small donation today!
Last month, Rebecca Tilbrook, founder of the Australian charity, For the Animals, and former Wildlife Alliance employee, brought a group of For the Animals supporters to visit our programs in the field. For the Animals serves as our partner in Australia spreading awareness, promoting Wildlife Alliance’s work, and building our supporter base. This guest post by Rebecca shares their experience and illustrates the work Wildlife Alliance is doing to help Cambodian communities end hunger and poverty:
Eight of us from Australia went up to visit all of Wildlife Alliance’s field projects, so we can raise awareness and resources from our country. Everyone on the visit had participated in various fundraising activities for the Australian group, For the Animals, which supports Wildlife Alliance’s work.
I have been on the visit several times now and what strikes me most is how every visit is different, and I always see something important that I’ve never seen before. Everyone enjoyed visiting the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center (PTWRC), home to 1,200 animals rescued from the illegal wildlife trade. The elephants are my favorite and I feel a real connection with them, especially Lucky whom I’ve known since she was a couple of years old. I truly feel that she and the other animals at PTWRC are happy and have minimum stress. I often wonder if they realize that they’ve been ‘rescued’ from certain death.
As much as I love being with the animals, the project that touched me the most this time was the Community Agriculture Development Project at Sovanna Baitong, which is a poverty alleviation project involving 187 families. We heard from different villagers what the project had meant to them and their families in terms of having enough food, medical care and schools for the children. The people who spoke to us were different from the people we heard from in February 2013, when I last visited. So Wildlife Alliance and the community members are not simply putting the same three people up in front of the group to give the same story each time – the project has truly touched all the families in the community. As we walked through the village with the families, we crossed over the Bridge of Love. It was called this because each night the husband and wife that own the land sit on the bridge and look back at their farm and house and are filled with love. While the gentleman was telling us this story, his kids were running around and giggling and playing with the strange visitors who were pretending to chase them. There was just a sense of delight in the atmosphere. We also saw the children interacting with a young puppy and it was clear that they felt real compassion for the animal, unlike some places I’ve visited where the people come from extreme poverty.
As of 2013, the agriculture projects have been handed over to the Khmer staff. The projects are both running well and I believe there is a sense of ownership and accountability among the villagers to continue to make the projects succeed.
We would like to thank Rebecca for her support and for sharing her experience. We also welcome all our supporters to visit our projects, and see first-hand the work we are doing to alleviate poverty in the region!
In the rural Cambodian village of Sovanna Baitong, where Wildlife Alliance’s Community Agriculture Development Project (CADP) is located, 187 families have been provided the tools to increase their household income in ways that are sustainable for both their families and the environment. Farmers use climate-smart techniques to grow a variety of crops yearlong, however income diversification is encouraged to protect farmers from bad harvest due to drought or heavy monsoonal rains. This supplemental income also provides a more sustainable livelihood that will prevent desperate farmers from returning to poaching and forest destruction.
Wildlife Alliance provides families interested in income-generating projects with resources and technical assistance. Recently, a Wildlife Alliance field technician provided training on the rearing of chickens. Twenty-two farmers participated in this training, where they received lessons on making and using vaccinations, building a suitable coop, and taking proper care of the chickens. Other enterprises supplementing their agricultural income include selling food and merchandise, sewing, repairing vehicles, and renting equipment. Women in the community have been leading the charge in entrepreneurial endeavors. The Women’s Committee provides training in various activities such as traditional Khmer food preparation and handicraft skills to promote such micro-businesses.
To pay for these projects, community members are able to borrow from the community’s micro-credit fund. This year, 26 families took out loans and repayment is already at 98%. In the community, 32 families have been earning over an average of $120 a month from these initiatives, with 10 families earning above $250 a month.
You can help Wildlife Alliance continue to alleviate poverty in the Southern Cardamoms with alternative sustainable livelihoods by making a year-end gift today!
Ket Thy and his wife, Pov Sean, originally lived in the forest of Preak Thanong in the Botum Sakor district of Koh Kong. Like other poor, landless migrant families, Ket Thy came to Koh Kong to clear forestland for subsistence crops and to poach wildlife for survival. However, this unsustainable lifestyle brought with it uncertainty, instability and isolation. With a growing desire for community and security, Ket Thy and his wife decided to join Wildlife Alliance’s Community Agriculture Development Project in Sovanna Baitong in 2004.
With help from Wildlife Alliance’s agricultural technicians, Ket Thy and Pov Sean have been able to cultivate their own land, growing vegetables for their own consumption as well as cash crops. They have come a long way since their slash-and-burn and hunting days, now using climate-smart techniques like drip irrigation and composting to improve productivity without degrading natural resources.
Ket Thy has managed to not only lift his family out of poverty, but has also been able to save a significant portion of their income. After three years of saving, Ket Thy and Pov Sean will be moving their family into a newly constructed house. They are among a growing number of families in the community that have now been able to make major home improvements. This is an exciting step for Ket Thy and his family, because the move represents not only a new dwelling, but a permanent home and future in the community of Sovanna Baitong.
You can help Wildlife Alliance continue to make stories like this possible by making a donation today!
Husband and wife, Pich Sophal and Sok Chantha have worked hard to make a life for themselves in Sovanna Baitong. Focusing on growing cash crops throughout the year, they’ve managed to steadily increase their income. They’ve taken full advantage of Wildlife Alliance’s Community Agriculture Development Project (CADP), which helps families earn a livable income through training in modern agriculture techniques and marketing, and provides farmers with subsidized tools, irrigation, and seedlings. They cultivate cucumber, tomato, radish, spinach, pumpkin and cashews and earned an average monthly income of USD $165, a significant increase from what they were making before they joined the program.
Not only are they dedicated farmers, but they are both very active community members. Pich Sophal, works in the community as Water Meter Reader, where he records each community member’s water consumption for irrigation. He also makes sure that the irrigation equipment of every lot is always in good working condition and properly kept. Sok Chantha, is a true entrepreneur. Her excellent communication and marketing skills have also made her a natural leader in the community. She serves on the marketing committee of the Agriculture Association and assists the Agricultural Development Committee, where she uses her abilities to help the community strike deals with various market vendors and contacts. In her free time, she also engages in small business ventures, selling rice cakes, fish and vegetables to the village on her new motorcycle. To diversify her income, she has also recently obtained a micro-credit to raise livestock.
Pich Sophal and Sok Chantha have finally been able to escape the vicious cycle of poverty and debt. Their steady income has allowed them to make improvements on their house, acquire a motorcycle and generate savings. Both their children study at the village primary school and the whole family has access to health care. The family has achieved a level of financial success and independence that they never dreamed would be possible when they lived off the forest in Chi Phat.
Help us continue to make success stories like this possible!
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Communications and Finance Field Liaison