Better management of Prek Thnot Watershed in Cambodia – positive feedback on the terminal evaluation of an APFNet-funded project
Prek Thnot is one of the most important watersheds in Cambodia. It provides important ecological and economic services and supports the livelihoods and production systems of local communities. Most areas upstream of the watershed are covered by forests, while the downstream area is covered by a few patches of forests and is more dedicated for human use and agriculture. However, Prek Thnot’s ecosystems are impacted negatively by human activities, such as deforestation, forest encroachment to supplement agricultural land, improper agricultural practices and so forth. These activities have led to the loss of watershed functions with many negative environmental consequences including soil erosion, depletion of soil nutrients, sedimentation of reservoirs, reduction of water quality and flooding of low-lying downstream areas, all of which ultimately affect many people. 
Started in July 2015, the APFNet project “Landscape Approach to Sustainable Management of Forests in Prek Thnot Watersheds” was designed to develop capacity and raise awareness on the concept of integrated watershed planning for national and local stakeholders. This was to be implemented via scientific assessments, analysis and participatory land-use planning at the landscape level, as well as improvement of 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 duration. Total funding for the project is USD 573,015 of which USD 499,215 is provided by APFNet.
From 3 to 6 November 2019, during the completion stage of project implementation, a terminal evaluation 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 from provincial and community levels.
Discussion with the project management team on project performance. 

After site visits, document review and interviews 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’s performance. The key achievement of the development of an Integrated Watershed Management Plan (IWMP) was highly appreciated by the consultant. Developed through a participatory approach among stakeholders, the plan serves as a guide to decision-makers and resource managers for managing 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 reflection with different stakeholders on the project’s impact and achievements. 
This project has also been contributing to livelihood promotion among local communities in the watershed area by developing community-based enterprises (cattle raising for meat production) and agroforestry farming systems. Agroforestry is not only a tool for livelihood improvement but also soil and water conservation, and contributes to the improvement of ecological functions in Prek Thnot watercourses, as well as the whole watershed area. “Learning 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 sale to the market. The agroforestry farm has provided me with many benefits by increasing my income and I do not need to spend much money during farming processes, for example on fertilizer, since developing canals on farmland helps reduce soil erosion from farms to the river and retain natural soil fertility,” said Mr Kim Chab, owner of the agroforestry farm.

Mr Kim Chab at his agroforestry farm and backyard cow-raising site in the community forest. 

Overall, the consultant was very impressed by project achievements. Suggestions on further adoption and implementation of the IWMP on the ground among policy-makers and practitioners to integrate the plan into various development programmes, while increasing the capacity development of resource managers in watershed management, are very significant. The consultant also suggested strengthening of comparative analysis on different land uses against the project objectives and continuing to periodically monitor the tracking indicators of the IWMP.