Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation in Seima Protection Forest, Cambodia

13 August 2013 Successes

1.1 Summary Description of the Project (G3)

The Seima Protection Forest (SPF) covers 292,690 ha. It is located in eastern Cambodia, mainly in Mondulkiri Province with a small area extending into Kratie Province. The REDD project area covers 180,513 ha of forest in the SPF Core Protection Area. The SPF was created by a Prime Ministerial Sub decree in late 2009. This upgraded the conservation status of the former Seima Biodiversity Conservation Area, which operated during 2002-2009. The site is part of the ancestral homeland of large number of ethnic Bunong people, for whom the forest is a key source of income and central to their spiritual beliefs. The area is also a meeting place for two important ecoregions – the Annamite Mountains (notable for high levels of local endemism among evergreen forest species) and the lower Mekong dry forests (which are crucial for the survival of many species typical of lowland deciduous forests). There are 41 Globally Threatened vertebrate species recorded in the project area (including 4 Critically Endangered and 14 Endangered). Many of these occur in globally or regionally outstanding populations, including Asian Elephants, primates, wild cattle, several carnivores and birds such as the Giant Ibis and Green Peafowl.

The SPF is currently under threat from accelerating forest clearance for agriculture together with unsustainable resource extraction (including hunting, logging and fishing). These activities harm both biodiversity and local forest-dependent livelihoods. Current drivers of these direct threats include improved road access, population growth, weak law enforcement and governance frameworks, limited recognition of the value of biodiversity and environmental services and rising market demand for both wild products and agricultural produce. The development of mines and agro-industrial plantations could also become potential future deforestation drivers if the area lacked full protection by the government. The illegal selective harvesting of rare Luxury grade tree species is a serious law enforcement issue at the site, as elsewhere in Cambodia, but has negligible long-term effect on carbon stocks.

Since 2002, the Forest Administration (FA) has collaborated with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and other local NGO partners to develop management systems for the SPF, both to conserve and restore the biodiversity values and to protect the livelihoods of local people. The conservation project has a holistic approach with four direct interventions: strengthening legal mechanisms and political support, direct law enforcement, strengthening community natural resource management and developing alternative livelihoods. Effective law enforcement is essential as it underpins all other activities. The sustained investment in supporting land titling for all indigenous communities in the landscape is particularly notable as it protects livelihoods and land rights while also forming a strong basis for cooperation in project implementation.

Conservation interventions prior to the REDD project have been on a fairly limited scale. Law enforcement activities have been successful in moderating (but not preventing) major threats across some parts of the SPF, moderating deforestation rates and allowing several key wildlife species to persist in large populations. This limited level of intervention been assumed to continue as part of the future baseline scenario. However, it falls well below the level needed to match the scale of the threats. Most threats remain severe and are increasing in scale and diversity. Deforestation rates and logging have increased, at least one flagship species (Tiger) has been lost from the reserve and declines are suspected for other species. Boundary demarcation, effective patrolling, community outreach, alternative livelihoods activities etc have been implemented in only a minority of the reserve. The effectiveness of conservation management is severely constrained by insufficient, irregular and declining funding and competition with other land-uses. Hence sustainable financing from carbon revenue for the site is essential to enable conservation action to be expanded and sustained in the long-term. It will allow the Royal Government of Cambodia and its NGO partners to expand activities to match the level of threat; ensure long-term support by covering operating costs; and generate financial incentives for conservation at local and national level.

The project benefits from strong, sustained political and donor support, a very open and collaborative, stable, long-term government/NGO partnership, the presence of highly committed individuals in leadership positions, recognition that effective, equitable law enforcement is the foundation for all 

other interventions and a willingness to try innovative techniques. Piloting of techniques since 2002 has identified successful approaches to many of the key challenges that the reserve faces, and with the addition of adequate financing, comprehensive and effective management can be put in place.

A more detailed description of the project’s objectives and activities can be found in Section 2.2 (of the complete report). The project aims to achieve joint validation against the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) and the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance Standard (CCBA). The chosen VCS methodology (VM0015) is described in Section 4; for simplicity it is referred to throughout the text as ‘the methodology’. 

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