The Agriculture Association
In Sovanna Baitong, where Wildlife Alliance’s Community Agriculture Development Project (CADP) has been located since 2004, the community is made up of mostly former slash and burn farmers, illegal loggers, and wildlife poachers. The target monthly income for participants was set at $40, roughly equivalent to what they were making through illegal activities. However, by the end of 2011, more than 42% of families were generating a monthly income of over USD $120. With this increase in income it has been essential to strengthen community values and create social cohesion through not only economic opportunities but also community empowerment. For that reason, the Community Agriculture Association was created at the outset of the project and has been growing ever since. The strengthening of civil society is vital for long term development, as these families previously lived in the forest and came from extreme isolation and poverty, with little knowledge about basic infrastructure necessary for community living. The Association functions to lead and manage the community’s agricultural production with the goal of self-sufficiency and sustainability.
The Community Agriculture Association helps villagers take managerial control of developing their community, so that they will be able to maintain and advance it well in to the future. It is made up of different service groups focusing on agriculture, marketing, credit, health, education, and natural resource management. These groups promote solidarity, cooperation, community participation, basic community services and biodiversity conservation. With constant innovation and evolution necessary for sustained development, 2011 saw the creation of a new service group, the Key Support Committee. The goal of this committee is to provide key development initiatives or projects for the community that will create additional revenues and new opportunities to the families. In the short time since its creation, the committee has been instrumental in the implementation of new projects such as cassava growing, choosing the site location for the new pre-school, repairing the mechanical bull, and creating a new system of water recording.
Due to the immense success of the Community Agriculture Development Project, the Association also works to promote these ideas throughout the country. Today, villagers of Sovanna Baitong are not only active participants on a regional scale, but also on a national level, leading the charge for alternative sustainable livelihoods, communal democratic management, and better stewardship of lands.