White-shouldered Ibis (Pseudibis davisoni) can sometimes be found feeding in the Ibis Rice paddies, like this one, in the Preah Vihear Protected Forest.
The Cambodian protected areas network was established in 1993, when there was limited information about biodiversity conservation priorities and local communities. As a result, several protected areas were created in places that included rural settlements, with significant numbers of people living within the protected area boundaries. Since these local communities are heavily dependent on forest resources for their livelihoods, there is a potential conflict between the agricultural and other livelihood activities of these local communities, and the biodiversity goals of protected areas.
Rural communities rarely possess legal tenure for their land, even when they have inhabited an area for many years. The country's legal system was devastated by more than three decades of civil conflict, while low levels of education and literacy in the countryside mean that rural communities are often unaware of their land rights. As a result, they are vulnerable to illegal 'land grabbing' by a rich and powerful elite who hope to benefit from high land prices and weak law enforcement to seize rural land for subsequent re-sale at a substantial profit. This means that rural communities have little incentive to manage their land sustainably.
There is also little economic incentive to manage land efficiently. Most villagers are small-scale farmers who cultivate rain-fed paddy rice during the wet season, for sale to traders and middle men. These farmers use low input and low output agricultural systems suited to their subsistence lifestyle. The communities are often geographically isolated, with very few traders visiting the village; as a result, those that do make the journey are able to set very low prices for the rice they purchase. Since farmers also have no access to credit, they often resort to borrowing money from these traders to purchase the following season's rice crop, further enhancing their dependence on them.
With growing human populations, the pressure on land resources is increasing, leading to widespread forest clearance in key conservation sites and protected areas, and conflicts between communities and government agencies responsible for conservation. Community members have little incentive to abide by national laws, particularly those that protect the forest estate. Successful wildlife and habitat conservation therefore depends on engaging them through tools that directly link local economic and social development to environmental conservation, particularly limiting deforestation.
You can donate ride to any legitimate organization or family in the Siem Reap area. SMP will deliver the rice and send you an email with proof of delivery - a photo of the recipient with the rice you have given them. This will also be posted here and on the Ibis Rice Facebook page.