Phnom Kulen National Park
Black ginger cultivation Mr. Somnang while planting black ginger in his home garden
For centuries, people across Southeast Asia have considered the black ginger (Kaempferia parviflora) an important plant used in traditional medicine and as food supplement. In Cambodia, two villages in the Phnom Kulen National Park are working to continue enjoying benefits from the plant while also protecting its wild sources.
Phnom Kulen National Park was established as a national park in 1993. It is located within the World Heritage Site of Angkor in Siem Reap province, and is approximately 40 kilometres northeast of the famed Angkor temples. The park is an important archeological site, hosting ancient treasures such sculpted riverbeds and caves, ancient hydraulic structures, and 1,200-year-old temples.
In Cambodia, Phnom Kulen is considered as a sacred mountain with great religious, cultural, and archaeological significance. Local communities visit this holy site daily to pray, leave offerings, stroll through the park, or hold picnics next to the waterfalls. Phnom Kulen is also a biodiversity-rich area with a complex environment. It is the source of the Siem Reap River and a critical part of the upper watershed catchment for Siem Reap Province.
The 37,373-hectare park hosts a population of 4,565 people comprising 990 families. Approximately 10 per cent of the park is agricultural land, where villagers grow cashew nuts as their main cash crop. In addition, they also raise livestock and produce upland rice, cassava, and beans.
Black ginger used to grow abundantly in the area, but continued exploitation started to threaten this abundance. As a result, over the past several decades, people have been cultivating the plant in their home gardens for their own use as well as for additional income. Their home gardens are small, measuring 200 to 300 square metres, and black ginger is usually grown with other crops under fruit trees such as bananas, coconuts, mangoes, and lychee trees.
The Biodiversity-Based Products as an Economic Source for the Improvement of Livelihoods and Biodiversity Protection, or the BBP Project, supported efforts to develop a viable black ginger value chain to benefit families in the Anlong Thom and Thmor Chrunh villages. With the project's assistance, a black ginger group was formed in these villages, called the Kulen Angkor Prateal Thleum Chhke Group.
The BBP Project supported the group on improving the whole black ginger value chain — from cultivation, harvesting, processing, packaging, labeling, and marketing. The group developed two products that are now being marketed under their own label — black ginger tea and black ginger powder.
Black ginger has been the subject of increased scientific interest in recent years. It is said to help treat various ailments such as heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Some of the other benefits traditionally attributed to this plant are the following:
• Regulates blood circulation
• Increases energy
• Stimulates nerves
• Stimulates testosterone production
• Enhances male sexual functions
• Nourishes the prostate gland
• Reduces triglycerides
• Serves as allergy and inflammatory medication
• Antioxidant effects
• Anti-obesity effects
The black ginger value chain development provides additional income to the families of the 31 members of the Kulen Angkor Prateal Thleum Chhke Group. It is also intended to help restore the abundance of black ginger in the wild, and reduce other forms of exploitation on the natural resources of the Phnom Kulen National Park.
Black ginger flower and Rhizome
Sliced black ginger to be processed as tea