PHNOM PENH, June 10 (Xinhua) -- Non-timber forest producer groups and associations represented important providers of social protection, while making a significant contribution to forest conservation and poverty eradication goals in Cambodia, conservationist groups said in a joint press release on Monday.
About 68 percent of total rural households across Cambodia relied on forest resources for their livelihood activities, said the release jointly issued by the Cambodian Ministry of Environment, Non-Timber Forest Products-Exchange Program (NTFP-EP), the World-Wide Fund for Nature, and the Wildlife Conservation Society.
Aside from collecting root crops, fruit, vegetables for daily consumption, local communities sustainably harvest forest honey, rattan, bamboo, and resin among others for processing and selling consumable food products and daily household materials, it said.
"Protecting forest access rights for local communities, particularly for indigenous peoples are therefore crucial to ensure equitable benefit distribution through awareness raising and implementation of relevant legislations," the release said.
E Vuthy, deputy secretary general of the National Council for Sustainable Development of the Ministry of Environment, said the national forest program 2010-2029 supported the collection and processing of non-timber forest products by using efficient methods and technology in order to enable rural people to participate in their socio-economic activities.
"The national program also supports the development of viable small and medium rural enterprises that add value to forest products making direct contribution toward self-sustained community forest management models," he said at the second National Forum on Non-Timber Forest Products here on Monday.
The forum took part by nearly 200 important and relevant stakeholders from the forest sector, the release said.
It said non-timber forest producers not only promoted the economic interest among their communities, but could also focus on protecting community members against risks or eventual economic shocks by creating informal social protection services such as pooling financial resources in savings and credit funds.
The release said that Cambodia successfully supported to-date development of a total of more than 60 community-non-timber forest product based enterprises in Kratie, Stung Treng, Mondulkiri, Rattanakiri, Preah Vihear, Koh Kong and Siem Reap provinces.
In 2018, the social enterprises covered a total of 379,897 hectares of community-based forest and fisheries management in these provinces, it added.
Femy Pinto, executive director of NTFP-EP Asia, said community producers made up an important proportion of the non-timer forest private sector and were therefore ones of the key players in realizing forest conservation and poverty eradication goals, contributing to the Cambodia's Sustainable Development Goals.
"In general, these community groups seek to gain more support from different development actors including the government, private sector and other stakeholders in non-timber forest product value chain development," she said at the forum.