Mapping of fields and the forest edge has recently been carried out as part of the work to develop a commercial community forestry enterprise in the Buffer Protection Forest of Seima. The activity, led by Forestry Administration staff Mr Hing Mesa and Mr Em Try, has completed mapping agricultural land, and spiritually important sites around the village of Pu Char. Similar work has been carried out by Cambodian NGO Development and Partnership in Action (DPA) in neighbouring villages.
The activity was conducted in collaboration with the village Forest Management Group. This group, whose membership includes most families from this small Bunong village on the edge of the Core Protection Forest, is responsible for developing resource use plans in the village as well as involved in the development of the forestry enterprise. Villagers, accompanied by representatives from the Commune Council and District land planning Cadastral had previously created sketch maps of the entire village marking each house, the main rivers, an estimation of the main agricultural areas, burial forest and spiritual sites. This was followed by mapping the areas on the ground. In the heat of the day the teams visited each site and recorded key locations with a GPS unit. The dimensions of rice paddy, already bone dry under the January sun, and hill rice areas were plotted. The data were assiduously recorded on sheets which were checked and certified as accurate by farmers, the village chief and District officials. In addition to agricultural land, important cultural sites were mapped, for example the Spirit Pools of Anlong Korp on the O Mahouch river. The villagers believe these adjacent deep water pools, which retain water year-round, are inhabited by male and female spirits respectively. Customary rules exists for these areas. Traditional methods only are allowed for fishing in the pools, using natural poisons or traditional traps and methods. The pools were fringed by a dense grove of thorny bamboo. Harvesting of this important building material was regulated and it can only be collected with permission from village Elders.
This information is being used by the villagers and Seima project to help define areas which are suitable for timber management, which areas are for agriculture and which be protected for cultural and environmental reasons. These data will be included in the forthcoming CCF management plan which will be the next key stage in the development of a viable community-run forestry enterprise that should provide significant income to these impoverished rural communities, whilst still maintaining the exceptional biodiversity and cultural values of the area.
The work was supported by a small grant from the Civil Society and Pro Poor Markets program, with funding from Danida, DFid and NZAid