Prek Thnot is one of the most important watersheds in Cambodia. It provides important ecological and economic services and support the livelihoods and production systems of local communities. Most parts of the upstream of the watershed are covered by forests, while the downstream part is covered by a few patches of forests and is more dedicated for human use and agricultural area. However, Prek Thnot’s ecosystems are subjected to negative effects of human activities, such as deforestation, forest encroachment of agricultural land, improper agricultural practices etc. These activities led to the loss of watershed functions with many negative environmental consequences including soil erosion, depletion of soil nutrients, sedimentation of reservoirs, decreasing of water quality and flooding of low lying downstream areas, ultimately affecting a large number of people.
Started in July 2015, the APFNet project “Landscape Approach to Sustainable Management of Forests in Prek Thnot Watersheds” was designed to build capacity and raise awareness for the concept of integrated watershed planning for national and local stakeholders through scientific assessments, analysis and participatory land use planning at the landscape level, as well as to improve community livelihoods by promoting agroforestry and establishing community-based enterprises. The project is carried out by the Institute of Forest and Wildlife Research and Development (IRD), with a four-year project duration. The total fund of the project is $573,015, among which $499,215 is given by APFNet.
On 3-6 November 2019, during the completion stage of the project implementation, a Terminal Evaluation (TE) of the project was carried out on the ground by an independent evaluation consultant, aiming to assess project performance, outcomes and impacts stemming from the project. The evaluation team visited the field plots and met with different stakeholders ranging from provincial to community level.
Discussion with the Project Management Team on project performance
Through site visits, document review, and interview with different stakeholders, including the project management team, the Provincial Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, commune chiefs, and local farmers, the consultants gave positive feedback on the project performance. The key achievement of the development of an Integrated Watershed Management Plan (IWMP) was highly recognized by the consultant. Developed through a participatory approach among stakeholders, the plan serves as a guide to decision makers and resource managers to manage the watershed to maximize the benefits for each stakeholder, while at the same time protecting the ecological functioning of the watershed. To date the plan has been used by each commune inside the watershed area as a guide and basic information for developing their annual Commune Investment Plan and Commune Land Use Plan in the future.
Interview and reflecting with different stakeholders on the project impact and achievements
This project has also been contributing to promoting livelihoods of local communities in the watershed area through developing community-based enterprises (cattle raising for meat production) and agroforestry farming systems. Agroforestry demonstration is not only a tool for livelihood improvement but also soil and water conservation that contributes to the improvement of ecological functions in Prek Thnot streams, as well as the whole watershed area. “Learned from training courses and with technical support from the project team, I have increased production of fruits and vegetables from my farm for self-consumption and sales to the market. The agroforestry farm has provided me with a lot of benefits by increasing my income and I do not need to spend much money during farming processes, for example fertilizer, since developing canals on farmland help reduce soil erosion from farm to the stream and retain natural soil fertility.” said Mr. Kim Chab, owner of the agroforestry farm.
Mr. Kim Chab with his agroforestry farm and backyard cow raising site in the community forestry
Overall the consultant gave high recognition to the project achievements. Suggestions on further adoption and implementation of the IWMP on the ground among the policy makers and practitioners to integrate the plan into various development programs, while increasing the capacity building of resource managers in watershed management, is very significant. The consultant also suggested to strengthen the comparative analysis on different land uses against the project objectives and continue to periodically monitor the tracking indicators of the IWMP.