By Mengey Eng
| December 26, 2017
27 December 2017 – Today farmers in Khek Svay village in Stung Treng’s Siem Pang District will help conserve Cambodia’s national bird, the giant ibis, and its forest home Western Siem Pang wildlife Sanctuary. They will do this by selling their rice crop into a premium rice scheme known as “Ibis Rice” which aims to increase household income and reduce food insecurity. In return villagers must respect the wildlife sanctuary laws.
BirdLife International Cambodia Programme with funding from the Darwin Initiative and the MacArthur Foundation is working with the Ministry of Environment and the Stung Treng Department of Environment to safeguard the 150,000 ha Western Siem Pang Wildlife Sanctuary in Stung Treng Province. The wildlife sanctuary supports a range of species threatened with extinction including 20% of the world population of the giant ibis and 50% of the world population of the white-shouldered ibis. These species are now found only in Cambodia. Encroachment, logging and hunting threaten this protected area and its wildlife.
Recognizing the important role that local villagers could play in its conservation, BirdLife launched a number of livelihood initiatives in the villages that surround the protected area boundary. Initially BirdLife sought an activity that could contribute to livelihoods and improve food security on existing rice fields lying outside the boundary that could be an incentive to prevent encroachment in the sanctuary and reduce the impact of other harmful activities like hunting. The answer came through a partnership with Ibis Rice and WCS to establish their already successful scheme, which was underway in Preah Vihear Province.
Launched by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Cambodia Program, IBIS Rice is an ambitious, not-for-profit conservation enterprise working with Cambodian farmers to produce world-class, Wildlife Friendly™, organic jasmine rice whilst preventing degradation of protected areas supporting endangered wildlife.
“We launched in 2009,” said Nicholas Spencer, Ibis Rice CEO, “and, thanks to our consumers in Cambodia and Europe, we are already protecting 500,000 hectares of forest and wetlands, helping conserve more than 50 endangered animal species, and increasing the incomes of 1,000 rice-farming families. The scheme has been so successful and we were looking to expand it to areas with similar issues and ambitions, working with BirdLife at Western Siem Pang Wildlife Sanctuary was an obvious next step.”
“This is the first year of the scheme in Siem Pang District and Khek Svay was the pilot village with 43 families participating. We are confident that once other villagers see how much more participating households receive for their IBIS Rice, the number of families joining the scheme will quickly increase.” Said Ty Srun BirdLife’s Site Manager at Siem Pang.
To participate in the scheme the villagers fields are mapped by the provincial authority and the farmer must agree to abide by a protocol requiring him to abstain from hunting and using pesticides and herbicides.
“The farmers are also not permitted to expand their fields into the wildlife sanctuary and must abstain from hunting and logging in the wildlife sanctuary,” said BirdLife’s Chea Sophea, who is the compliance officer for the scheme. “Each participating villager has a village marketing network that works towards ensuring compliance and I use satellite imagery to ensure the fields do not expand into the sanctuary.”
“We have already begun to introduce the scheme to other nearby villages and rice field mapping is underway at three villages that will join the scheme in 2018,” added Srun.
“Many government offices and organizations have played a part in the success of the scheme to date,” said BirdLife’s Country Programme Manager Bou Vorsak. “These include our close partners the Stung Treng Department of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction who mapped the rice fields with BirdLife staff and the villagers. Samsum Mlup Prey and the Cambodian Rural Development Team (CRDT) provided guidance with marketing and agricultural extension. Ultimately it was the good offices of the Stung Treng Governor that oversaw the scheme.”
“I am happy to be a member of IBIS rice,” said Mr. Thun Kork, a villager of Khek Svay, Stung Treng Province. “IBIS rice encourages me and other villagers to protect endangered wildlife and stop using the chemical fertilizer. Most importantly, it helps improve our local livelihoods because we can sell our rice to the Ibis Rice project in a premium price.”