Mondulkiri villages to get REDD+ funds

Villagers attend a ceremony after signing an agreement to receive funds to improve their community from the Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary’s REDD+ project. Photo supplied
Villagers attend a ceremony after signing an agreement to receive funds to improve their community from the Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary’s REDD+ project. Photo supplied

Twenty villages in Mondulkiri province are set to receive at least $10,000 each as a result of the $2.6 million carbon credit purchase by the Walt Disney Company in 2016, under a scheme meant to protect the Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary, officials said yesterday.

This would be the first time money has made its way to communities for development purposes as a result of the wildlife sanctuary’s REDD+ project, a United Nations-backed program to combat deforestation.

Each community submitted its priorities for development, and on Monday villages signed agreements with the Ministry of Environment, said Ken Sereyrotha, country director for the international NGO Wildlife Conservation Society, which will oversee how the money is spent.

“Each village will receive at least $10,000 per year to develop their communities,” he said.

One indigenous community, Andoung Kralong, will use the money to improve access to clean water. The funding will be deposited in a bank account and will be managed by a committee in each village.

“With that fund, over 100 households will soon [have] access to clean water through a piped-water system at their households,” Sereyrotha said.

Sereyrotha said the reason why funding is just now reaching communities is because the process has required several steps, such as the opening of bank accounts, consultations to develop community work-plans, and securing approval.

At the time of the 2016 sale of the credits, Ministry of Environment spokesman Sao Sopheap told The Post that 90 percent of the $2.6 million would go towards “ground” activities to stop deforestation and encourage sustainable practices.

Sopheap couldn’t be reached on Tuesday and Chuop Paris, also with the Ministry of Environment, referred questions about the funding allocation to WCS, which he said manages all funding from the carbon credit’ sales.

Yeang Donal, REDD+ technical adviser at the WCS, said up to 40 percent of the $2.6 million has already been spent on activities to help protect the forest by supporting law enforcement and forest patrolling.

Community funds are meant to incentivise further protection of the forests. Some of the 20 affected villages also help with forestry patrol, he said.

Nuth Nu, 43, chief of Chork Cha village, expressed excitement about the $11,660 fund his village will receive.

“My community started protecting the forest since 2007,” he said. “In 2010, we started working with NGO [WCS]. What we have done bears the fruit now.”

His village will use the money to make a well and install a drainage system to divert water from roads to a canal in three locations.

“The fund encourages us to put more effort in protecting the forest,” he added.

A second international company has purchased a “small amount” of carbon credits from the project, though Sereyrotha said he was not authorised to disclose the name of the firm or specific amount.

Donal said that this project has 9.2 million metric tonnes of carbon credits available for purchase.

Currently, no entity regulates Cambodia’s existing three REDD+ projects because they are each pilot projects, Paris said. However, the government recently approved a national strategy for REDD+ programs, which should be made public soon, under which a task force would manage and regulate future programs, he said.

The three existing pilots don’t include one that is widely deemed to have failed to protect forest in Oddar Meanchey, which recently prompted airline Virgin Atlantic to discontinue purchasing carbon credits from the program.