Nestled within the picturesque Peam Krasop Wildlife Sanctuary lies Boeung Kachang, a community brimming with tourism potential. Situated in Boeung Kachang village, Bak Khlang commune, Mondul Seima district, this scenic community spans 728 hectares and boasts captivating features such as enchanting rows of mangrove forests.

Despite its abundant potential, the community has yet to harness the economic benefits of tourism due to a lack of development partners. Transforming these potentials into thriving tourist destinations has remained an unfulfilled aspiration for the community as a whole.

Lorn Rith, president of Boeung Kachang protected area community, highlighted the vast opportunities awaiting development.

“Our community is blessed with abundant potential for tourism, including streams, fishing grounds, snail and clam harvesting areas, and sandy beaches stretching up to 6 kilometres,” he said.

However, the community currently relies on working visitors rather than private tourists, as they have yet to establish a suitable destination.

“To unlock our community’s economic potential and uplift our people’s income, we are looking for a partner to help develop our prospects as a tourism site,” said Rith.

Boeung Kachang Protected Area is home to 149 families whose livelihoods primarily revolve around fishing, shrimp and crab processing, fish farming, and factory work. Approximately three per cent of the population comprises civil servants.

Villagers dry shrimp by their home in Boeung Kachang community in 2018. MANUTH BUTH/UNDP CAMBODIA

Fishing in open waters and local streams, along with crab and shrimp peeling, remain the mainstay of the community’s occupation. Moreover, 37 families are employed in the factories located in the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in the province.

The community’s sole school caters to students from grades one to six. Upon graduation from grade six, local students must attend Bak Khlang High School as the area currently lacks a high school.

Highlighting crucial activities, Rith emphasized the community’s commitment to protecting and conserving natural resources across its 728 hectares of land. Notably, joint savings activities have flourished, amassing a capital of nearly 500 million riel. These initiatives encompass battery charging facilities, clean water projects, and communal crab farming.

Temporarily disrupted due to dam construction, crab farming stands as a vital enterprise for the community.

“We await the release of the project budget to initiate dam construction. Once complete, the sluice gate will enable us to control water flow, retaining the good water while disposing of the bad. Presently, the mixed water diminishes our profits, hindering crab farming,” Rith explained.

Voluntary and community-based, the savings program has immensely benefited Boeung Kachang. Dividends or interest, totalling approximately 0.7 per cent, are distributed to community members annually.

“This savings program has bolstered our community, enabling us to expand our businesses and foster solidarity through mutual support,” Rith said.

The savings programme not only aids financial stability but also contributes to various community endeavours. From forest patrols to assisting the poor, hospitalized, injured, and funeral expenses, the savings program serves as a lifeline for the community.