Forest destruction caused by land encroachment is one of the biggest threats facing the Southern Cardamom Mountain Range. In 2002, when Wildlife Alliance first began work in the Cardamoms, 250 – 700 acres of forestland were being burned and cleared every month. Since that time, Wildlife Alliance has worked with the Royal Government of Cambodia to implement zoning, participatory land use planning, and forest demarcation. In order to demarcate land in a way that is enforceable and transparent, physical boundaries must be drawn out and marked to distinguish protected areas, protected forests, permitted development areas, agricultural areas, community zones, and village boundaries in order to protect forest and villagers from illegal sales of land and anarchic land grabbing.

Wildlife Alliance works with village, district, and provincial authorities, the Ministry of Land Management, the Ministry of Environment, the Forestry Administration, and commune leaders to determine zoning and to demarcate these zones with clearly marked boundary posts. Communities are involved in the zoning and demarcation process to clarify land ownership and access. Forest demarcation enables protected areas to be visibly delineated so that stakeholders clearly understand where agriculture is allowed, where industrial development activities are allowed, and which areas are to remain protected via ranger patrols. It serves to empower and educate villagers on land issues and rights, and raise awareness on the importance of preserving the natural environment. Most importantly, it prevents illegal land transactions and land grabbing by business and powerful people.

As of 2011, our Zoning and Demarcation Project has worked with the Royal Government of Cambodia to demarcate 324 km of land with 1,587 demarcation posts. Our efforts have demarcated 372,101 hectares (919,412 acres) for protection by our forest rangers while working with several communities to set aside land for their legal use.

In June 2012, Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen announced a new land titling policy that provides poor people all over Cambodia with land titles, regardless of whether the land is set within the boundaries of the protected forest areas. In July 2012, our Forest Patrol and Zoning and Demarcation teams conducted aerial surveys to assist local officials and accurately ascertain the current demarcations of the land. Wildlife Alliance supports land tenure for villagers, but it is also important that protected land stay protected and that the situation is not exploited by rich land owners that already own titles. Wildlife Alliance joined forces with the government to ensure the land titling process in the region is undertaken accurately and responsibly.