SANSOM MLUP PREY, a non-profit organization, was created in 2009 to promote and market wildlife-friendly products grown or crafted in the communities located in all categories of land protected for their biodiversity value in Cambodia. Its work links wildlife conservation to improving livelihoods of villagers limited by the constraints of living in a remote area with little opportunity to expand operations and limited market access. The Certified Wildlife Friendly product is Ibis Rice, a naturally organic product sold in hotels, restaurants and shops in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh.
SMP works with village marketing networks (VMN), rural cooperatives whose members are made up of farmers who are often not food secure, relying on forest resources for income. Members are paid a premium for their produce when they abide by conservation rules and regulations, including wildlife protection and maintenance of land-use boundaries. Currently we are working in 10 villages, nine in Preah Vihear province and one in Kompong Thom province.
Conceived in 2008, the Ibis Rice brand was created to highlight the plight of Cambodia national bird, the Giant Ibis. Today this species is critically endangered, and is most easily seen in Preah Vihear province.
Tmatboey, Dangphlat, Prey Veng and Narong are four of the villages in the Northern Plains of Cambodia where Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) is working with communities and the government to restore wildlife populations to historical levels, focusing on two protected areas.
In Preah Vihear, the Kulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary and the Preah Vihear Protected Forest either contain, or are used by, long-established local communities, who are very poor and are heavily dependent upon the forest and surrounding habitat for their livelihoods. In Kompong Thom, the Bengal Florican Conservation Area is located on the floodplain of the Tonle Sap, a large rice-growing area threatened by conversion to large-scale agriculture, and away from traditional land uses which allowed wildlife and communities to coexist.
Agricultural-based livelihood development is limited by low prices offered by the traders or middlemen who traditionally buy the villagers' excess paddy.This provides little incentive for communities to improve agricultural efficiency. With growing human populations the pressure on land resources is increasing, leading to widespread forest clearance in key conservation areas and conflicts between communities and government agencies responsible for environmental protection. As land is one of the few easily available forms of wealth, community members have little incentive to engage with these government agencies. Successful wildlife and habitat conservation therefore depends on working with them through tools that directly link local economic and social development to community conservation.
The Village Marketing Networks are the tools which couple improved livelihoods to conservation-friendly practices. The VMNs:
- Target the poorer farmers, who are often not food secure and are more reliant on forest resources.
- Provide initial inputs, support (training in new agricultural techniques) and resources (pkha malis rice seed, for instance).
- Buy from farmers if they abide by conservation rules and regulations, including wildlife protection and maintenance of land-use boundaries agreed between the Government and the community.
- Offer preferential prices to community members, in some cases up to double what they previously would have received. The initial business model is based on sales in the tourist center of Cambodia.
Based on criteria developed by the Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network (www.wildlifefriendly.org), Ibis Rice is now certified wildife-friendly and through WFEN, promoted globally. Sansom Mlup Prey was established as the responsible entity, responsible for buying, processing and marketing the Wildlife Friendly® products, ensuring compliance and transparency.