The SFS program in Cambodia explores the ethical challenges surrounding environmental change and development. To understand the ethical, conservation and livelihood challenges, we interviewed community forest members, traveled to Prek Toal (a community on the Tonle Sap Lake), hiked the Phnom Kulen Nature Trail, drove to BeTreed, Kratie, Phnom Penh, Kampot, and crossed the border to Vietnam. All of these field trips were inspiring and educational but something that stood out for me was our trip to the community mangrove project.
Cambodia has a small coastal area of 60,000 ha. Mangrove forests in the coastal area provide food and protection for marine species and livelihood sources for the community nearby. Like many inland areas in Cambodia, mangrove forests also suffer from deforestation. The mangrove community (Phum Trapeang Sangke) that we visited outside Kampot had a different story. The community had come together to protect and restore the mangrove forests.
Mr. Sim Him, the leader of that community, is working with local-level government officials and political leaders to protect and secure the area for the community. Mr. Sim is a visionary who understands the importance of direct community participation. Community members are an integral part of restoring the Mangrove Forest because according to Mr. Sim, the community needs to understand the time and energy one puts in to grow the trees.
In addition to meeting with Mr. Sim at the mangrove community, we also planted mangroves at the sea shore. It was fun to get into the soil and more importantly it was very inspiring to be part of long-term mangrove restoration project.
SFS Cambodia students with Mr. Sim Him. Photo courtesy of Lisa Arensen