On June 14, 2012, Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen announced a new land titling policy for villagers living inside state forests, economic land concessions, and former timber concessions. This new policy granted land titles to individuals pending mapping and occupancy history projects to be undertaken by each province within six months. Tens of thousands of families are currently embroiled in land disputes and this policy has the potential to clear up many of those issues. However, with its pointed mention of protected and previously zoned lands, it also has the potential to encourage anarchic land-grabbing in protected forest areas and outside of community development land. There are thousands of people living in the Southern Cardamoms who will be affected by this policy and our Forest Patrol teams, in collaboration with our Zoning and Demarcation team, have taken to the skies to do aerial surveys to assist local officials in ensuring that protected areas stay protected and villagers do not participate in land-grabbing that cannot be verified later.
Issues like this require immediate action and because Wildlife Alliance is on the ground every day, we are able to work quickly in response to zoning and land tenure disputes. During the first week of July, our team conducted an aerial survey, marking new houses and areas of deforestation, and even encountering an illegal logging operation in the process. Wildlife Alliance CEO Suwanna Gauntlett met with Koh Kong Provincial Governor, H.E. Bun Leut, the next week to discuss Wildlife Alliance’s concerns and the potential problems inherent in the new land measurement project. Wildlife Alliance supports land tenure for villagers, as the sustainable cultivation of one’s own land ensures the protection of the surrounding habitat, but we want to guarantee that this project is undertaken systematically and responsibly. Youth teams departed from Phnom Penh that same week to take part in the land measurement project organized by the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction. Four trucks carrying these teams arrived at the Governor’s Mansion on their way to the field where they were greeted by officials and the Wildlife Alliance team. Wildlife Alliance donated food and supplies to the teams as they head out to measure land over the next few weeks.
Check out our Facebook page for more pictures in the album Forest Patrollers Take to the Sky and the album LandMeasurement Commences. Visit our donation page to help our Forest Patrol and Zoning and Demarcation teams as they labor under this new decree.
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Communications and Finance Field Liaison