Nearly 300 million people worldwide live in the tropical zone and depend heavily on forest, fishing and farming as their primary source of food and income. They cut timber, burn the rainforest to make charcoal for sale to the cities, or to clear land for agriculture.
Clearing the rainforest results in poor sandy soils and low crop yields. The violent swings in tropical weather patterns is one the major challenges that these poor farmers face. In the hot season, temperatures rise too high for many varieties of crops to survive, and then, when the monsoon season arrives, rains are so strong that most of the seeds and soil are washed away, leaving only meagre harvests. Because of the tropical climate, farmers are working on a constantly degrading landscape and with ever-diminishing natural resources.
To make things worse, most rural villagers who resort to environmentally destructive activities such as wildlife poaching, logging, and slash-and-burn farming in order to make a living, have limited access to education, skills training, healthcare, and economic opportunities.
THE WILDLIFE ALLIANCE APPROACH
Wildlife Alliance has developed sustainable income generating models for poor farmers living in the tropics. Our farming approach takes into account the extreme swings of tropical weather and has developed adaptation methods so that farmers can bring produce to markets every two weeks, instead of just one harvest a year, as before. In Sovanna Baitong village in the Cardamoms, our approach has resulted in farmers earning 300 percent more income than before, as compared to when they were living in the forest from slash and burn cultivation. Our models include sustainable agriculture, small enterprise development, and ecotourism.
Women occupy 67 percent of decision-making positions within the various business associations, agriculture associations, and community funds.
For community based ecotourism (CBET) development, we provide technical assistance in facilitating the community’s design and planning process, deciding on roles and responsibilities of management committee and service groups, agreeing on decision-making procedures, how income will be allocated, and so on. Families have stopped 100% forest slash-and-burn practices and are now earning sustainable income from international tourism. Visitors come from all over the world to go on three day treks in the Cardamom rainforest, enjoy river kayaking or mountain biking, and stay at community guesthouses. The people of Chi Phat have received several international awards for their CBET project.
We provide start-up funds for development of needed infrastructure (community visitor center, upgrading of family homes to create homestays and guesthouses, initial purchases of mountain bikes and kayaks).
Within our model there are several types of services to visitors and every service requires capacity building. Therefore an important component is working hand-in-hand with the community members to teach them hospitality skills, housekeeping, cooking, nature guiding, English, and financial and computer literacy.
See how our community-based agriculture program is helping the community of Sovanna Baitong, an area formerly ravaged by illegal logging and wildlife poaching.
See the difference our Community-Based Ecotourism Project is making in the community of Chi Phat, with Road Less Traveled star Jonathan Legg. Visit our Ecotourism site in Chi Phat ››