To establish biodiversity-based enterprises, the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH or GIZ, through a joint project called, the Biodiversity-Based Project (BBP) as an Economic Source for the Improvement of Livelihoods and Biodiversity Protection recently signed three local subsidy contracts (LSC) with the Cambodian government for villages in Phnom Kulen National Park (PKNP).
The project involves developing two biodiversity-based value chains in the PKNP area—the production of medicinal plants and handicrafts made from vines. The plants and vines that are the raw material for these enterprises are abundantly found in PKNP, and developing sustainable enterprises using these resources is expected to help reduce people's dependence on livelihood activities that negatively impact the biodiversity of the park.
The BBP project adopts a value chain development approach, which means that support will be provided to address the biggest gaps in each step of the enterprise—from harvesting or planting of raw materials, to processing or production, and all the way to marketing. The project specifically aims to: enhance biodiversity conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity resources; improve livelihoods; and add value to biodiversity-based products along local, regional, and international value chains by increasing the recognition of biodiversity-based products in the ASEAN region.
Efforts will build on traditional values and local knowledge but will also introduce innovations to improve product quality and ensure sustainable harvesting of the natural resource base.
Many of the villagers are looking forward to the assistance that the project will facilitate in terms of finding markets or traders for their products, which they have been sorely needing.
“We are waiting for the project to start to help us find more market for our ginger with better price,” said Mr. Sum Samnag, one of the villagers who are engaged in planting and producing the medicinal plant Kaempferia parviflora, commonly known as Thai Ginseng, which is used to treat illnesses like body aches, and ulcer. The medicinal plant has antibacterial and antifungal effect and is believed to treat tumor, pulmonary tuberculosis and infectious diseases such as malaria.
The pilot project will benefit at least 31 households in PKNP. It is also hoped that the efforts of these households will be able to demonstrate the viability of the enterprises for the rest of the villagers and for other areas to follow.
Dr. Theresa Mundita S. Lim, Executive Director of the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity shared that the signing of the BBP LSC in Cambodia is a welcome development in mainstreaming biodiversity conservation in the private sector through the value chains. “The BBP Project is well positioned to mainstream conservation initiatives with the aim of developing alternative sources of income for the communities involved. With this, we hope to reduce the pressure on the environment and underline sustainable use of natural resources in the protected areas,” she added.
Under this project, the involved community members undergo various training programs to ensure sustainable harvesting and high quality of the medicinal plants and vine handicrafts to be produced while at the same time ensuring sustainable management of the natural resources. Activities are also lined up to link the local producers to profitable markets and to ensure that they have enough business management skills to keep the enterprises running effectively.
In addition, the project will also study other non-forest timber products or other plant species in the area that could potentially be developed as additional biodiversity-based enterprises in the future.
The LSCs were signed between GFA Consulting Group GmbH, representing the BBP Project, with the General Secretariat of the National Council for Sustainable Development of Cambodia's Ministry of environment (GSSD/MOE). GSSD is responsible for the site implementation and overall management of the projects. The ACB is a co-implementer of the project under the ASEAN Heritage Parks Programme under the umbrella of the CARE4BioDiv Programme of the ASEAN-German Cooperation.
The ACB was established in 2005 by the ASEAN Member States as a response to biodiversity loss in the region. The Centre supports and coordinates the implementation of activities in the ASEAN leading to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, for the benefit of the region and the AMS.