Wildlife Alliance is the founding developer of the Southern Cardamom REDD+ Project in the second largest contiguous rainforest still standing in Southeast Asia.
Wildlife Alliance has 18 years experience in protected area management. Its mission is to provide direct protection to forests and wildlife in the Southeast Asian tropical belt. Wildlife Alliance has been working with the Royal Government of Cambodia since 2000 to assist in strengthening management of protected areas and protected forests, counter forest and wildlife trafficking, and help communities develop alternative livelihoods.
The Southern Cardamom REDD+ Project of 1,151,113 acres (465,839 hectares) with 82 percent of dense evergreen forest. Located in the Cardamom Mountain Range, this REDD+ project protects one of Asia’s last seven remaining elephant corridors and second predator range in the region. It is home to all of Cambodia’s endangered mammals including Asian elephant, Indochinese Tiger, Clouded Leopard, Asiatic Black Bear, Malayan Sun Bear, Humpback Dolphin, Irrawaddy Dolphin and the critically endangered Siamese Crocodile previously thought to be extinct.
The government asked Wildlife Alliance for assistance in 2002, when a transnational freeway gutted through the rainforest over 155 km and opened this previously undisturbed wilderness to newcomers, land grabbers, illegal loggers and poachers. 37 elephants and 12 tigers were killed in just the 18 months preceding the forest protection program. There were 35- 40 forest fires on any given day along the freeway, resulting from district governors selling State forestland under the table to land speculators. It took only 9 months to Wildlife Alliance and the Forestry Administration to bring the situation back under control. Today, the rainforest has been preserved and the freeway is the only national road in the country to still have intact rainforest on both sides. In 2004-2012, the biggest driver of deforestation has been allocation of economic land concessions. Wildlife Alliance has worked very closely with the government to obtain cancellation or size reduction of 33 economic land concessions, thus saving a total of 1,669,564 acres of forest from bulldozing (half the size of Yellowstone Park in the U.S).
Throughout the Southern Cardamom landscape in 2002, the second deforestation driver after land grabbing was slash and burn cultivation by poor landless farmers. Surviving on meager harvests of rice and roots, these farmers earned less than $10 per month, were riddled by debt, and their children had no access to education or health care. Thanks to Wildlife Alliance the three main hubs for slash and burn have now adopted sustainable agriculture, development of small enterprises, ecotourism, and community reforestation. In Sovanna Baitong village, for example, most families have now increased their income by 300% through sale of vegetables and fruits and use of climate-smart agriculture techniques that enable them to harvest and sell their produce all year round. In Chi Phat, which is now rated “the best Community-Based Ecotourism in Cambodia”, the community has earned over $180,000 since opening for tourism in October 2008.
Favorite story: Mr. Mao Sarun lives in Kam Lot village with his wife and three children, and works as the Chief of Accounts on the CBET management committee. Mr. Mao started as a local guide with CBET, Mao started prior to his accounting leadership role. But life wasn’t always so positive for him. Before joining CBET, he was a hunter and a farmer, earning an unsteady income from poaching and slash-and-burn farming. Mr. Mao now earns $115 per month as the CBET Chief of Accounts. He said that the slash and burn farming and hunting cannot support his whole family so he needed to stop the illegal activities. Furthermore he now fully understands the value of nature and the importance of the environment. He said this CBET project is great, especially for his children and the future generations. He really wants this project to continue because it provides local people with job opportunities and is helping to develop the community in a sustainable way.