Back in Siem Reap. After a month traveling through Cambodia, we ended up in the Mekong Delta in southern Vietnam. The mighty Mekong River, the 7th largest river in Asia. We traversed across the plains of Cambodia following an important artery for Southeast Asia. Its flood pulse cycle brings life across the floodplains. Supplying villages with fish, vegetation with nutrients, and water for the rice paddies. We’ve met countless individuals and communities dedicated to making sure that their grandchildren do not run out of the natural resources they rely on. Because the truth is, Cambodia is growing rapidly and a call for sustainable development is needed now more than ever. At times, I have felt overwhelmed. Here we are at the base of the steepest mountain in the plains of Cambodia. How can we help those who are trying to ensure Cambodia does not run out of its natural resources? Like Sisyphus, we must carry on and help them push the boulder upward.
Where there is water, there is fish. That phrase sums up the country’s attitudes towards its natural resources. However, fish are no longer as abundant as they once were. Overfishing is depleting the nation’s fish stocks. And deforestation is rapidly increasing. Cambodia currently ranks 5th in global deforestation rate. Mangrove forest is among the ecosystems most threatened.
When we arrived in Kampot, I was presented with the chance of accompanying Dr. Arensen and Center Director Dave Ware to a village that has established a mangrove nursery. A good portion of Cambodia’s mangrove forest has been degraded. Here a community has banded together, concerned for the future, and made immense sacrifices to ensure their grandchildren can still fish. They do not make money. It is all volunteer work. With the aid of international governments and NGOs they have garnered enough funding to start up the program, building the nursery, a kitchen, and a common space.
A community member helped them buy the user rights to the mangrove forest. They also built cabanas so they can start a homestay program to generate funds to operate the nursery. They even offer paddling tours of their mangrove forest. I was blown away by their initiative. With a strong village chief leading the charge, the people in this village were able to make a difference.