Monday, April 20, 2009

Wild Honey Committed Sustainable Management in Mondulkiri

BY BUTH REAKSMEY KONGKEA

The World Wide Fund for the Nature (WWF), in cooperation with the Non-Timber Forest Products - Exchange Program (NTFP-EP) released fresh wild honey products in Sen Monorom district, Mondulkiri province on April 7. The launching ceremony was also joined and organized by representatives of international and national non-governmental organizations, local villagers and provincial authorities as well as the minority ethnic Phnong communities in Krang Teh and Pou Chrey.

Seng Teak, WWF Country Director, said this event marked WWF’s commitment to protecting forest resources and promote developments in non-timber forest products in Mondulkiri province. He said Mondulkiri Wild Honey is the result of a forest-based livelihood project the two communities of Krang Raton and Prey Rodang began in 2007 to operate enterprises raising the value of forest resources as an important means for improving their living standard.

Teak said such an achievement is also motivated by the communities’ understanding of their roles and that participation in natural resource management is key to successfully protecting the surrounding plains and wildlife.

“Honey is one of the important forest-based livelihoods that communities living in and around the protected areas of Mondulkiri are dependent upon. By motivating the communities in the processing of wild honey, the intimate relations between people, forests and non-timber forest products are promoted,” he said.

He said that the launch of the honey product was organized to coincide with celebrations of community networking and marketing campaigns as his organization promotes Non-Timber Forest Products based community enterprises in other parts of the country including Phnom Penh, Ratanakiri as part of the April Festival on Forests, People and NTFPs and later in the year in Siem Reap and Koh Kong provinces.

“WWF, government and NGO partners are working actively with local communities in the Eastern Plains Landscape to encourage their involvement in forest conservation while promoting livelihood opportunities,” Teak added.

Amy Maling, WWF Community Extension Technical Advisor, said forest honey from the wild bees living in protected areas and community forests can potentially attract domestic and international markets if it meets standard requirements with regards to quality, quantity, price, packaging and product use.

To ensure that forest honey collection is a sustainable community livelihood, honey collectors follow proper methods of harvesting, adopt hygienic and standardized practices and package products with attractive labeling, Maling said.

She added that WWF works with NTFP-EP to promote and support NTFP-based community processing activities by organizing them in groups, providing capacity building, inviting them in processes of forest management and helping them to promote their achievement among the public.

Tep Asnarith, WWF Senior Communications Officer, said in partnership with communities, government and the NTFP Working Group, the WWF is implementing forest-based livelihood projects in the Mondulkiri’s Eastern Plains Landscape and Kampot province with the goals to maintain the forests ecosystem and reinforce the sustainable use of natural resources for Cambodia’s next generations.

WWF’s Eastern Pains Landscape Project works with the Cambodian government on protecting the Cambodia’s dry forests complex and the globally significant wildlife it harbours. The project focused on two conservation areas, Mondulkiri Protected Forest and Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary, covering a total area of approximately 6,000 square kilometres. The project’s goal is to keep the last wilderness of Cambodia intact and connected, helping people protect their wildlife and sustain their livelihood.

Asnarith said that WWF Cambodia’s mission is to ensure that there will be strong participation and support from all people to conserve the country’s rich biological diversity. He said through encouraging the sustainable use of natural resources, WWF Cambodia will promote new opportunities for the benefit of all people, enhancing local livelihoods and contributing to poverty reduction throughout the country.

The development of the honey enterprise brings change into the situation of local honey trade in Mondulkiri province, according to Asnarith.

He said the fresh wild honey is sold only to local buyers who offer a low and unstable price. In 2007, for example, honey was sold for 10,000 riel (US$2.5) per litre. But with the increased market in the province and capital of Phnom Penh, the Phnong collectors sold an average of 18,000 riel (US$4.5) per litre in 2008.

Pich Phony, 45, a Phnong community member, was happy to have completed a series of trainings for proper honey collection techniques and witnessed good results.

"Rather than just collecting one lot of honey from a nest, with the new technique I can collect up to three times during a 25-day period,” Phony said. “This is very important to me because it gives me more income to support my family.”

He said before, the price of honey was not stable because it depended on brokers to set it. The price for selling in the village was 10,000 to 12,000 riel per litre, but if sold directly to tourists, the price could reach as high as between 18,000 to 20,000 riel per litre.

To promote the sustainable honey products and forests in Cambodia, WWF will continue to promote the eco-friendly honey harvesting tradition and sustainable collection method that respect the biodiversity and maintain the intimate relationships and harmony between people, forest and NTFP, said Asnarith.

“We are working to promote the sustainable harvest and production to other villages across Mondulkiri Protected Forest and Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary,” Asnarith said. “It includes 16 villages living in and around these protected areas and the objective is also to promote and increase community awareness of livelihoods development based on non-timber forest products.”

To find the market for the sale of local honey products, WWF and its NTFP-EP partner will work with communities on building their capacity for planning and handling marketing techniques and aspects, he said.

“We also continue to promote and involve community participation in the process of natural resource management to enable protection of plains and wildlife for the next generations,” he added.

He also said that WWF will continue to train the communities’ members to effectively deal with retail outlets in Mondulkiri and properly manage the honey product. WWF also plans to find and work with other partners for a wider distribution of the Mondulkiri Wild Honey and other business opportunities.

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