Non-Timber Forest Products Exchange Programme

Assessment of Policies on Non-Timber Forest Products – Country Study: Cambodia

October 12, 2020

The paper aims to provide a policy and institutional review and assess existing policies and regulatory environment on non-timber forest products (NTFPs) in Cambodia. Eighty-five percent of Cambodian people depend on agriculture, timber, and non-timber forest products for their subsistence.

NTFPs are used by most communities as food sources, medicines, building materials or materials for creating other products. Cambodia’s overall policy vision governing forest resources including management, utilization, and conservation of NTFPs is articulated in the the National Forest Program (2010-2029), supported by key policy frameworks and regulations relevant to forestry, protected areas, community forestry, community protected area and land. Forest land owner-ship in Cambodia has implications on rights to use and manage forest resources, including NTFPs.

The assessment of the policies and regulations was conducted using 7 key criteria and the findings are presented below:

A. Community access to NTFPs for harvest, utilization, production, and management

Cambodian policy frameworks (e.g. forestry, community forestry management, protected areas) recognize a broad spectrum of tenure rights ranging from statutory to customary, and tenure holders vary from individual to collective and from local communities to indigenous peoples (IPs). The law is clear on the non-restriction and interference by the State and concessions on the exercise of customary rights. These policy frameworks provide several opportunities for the indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs) to ensure their traditional use rights over the land. However, the operational meaning of customary user rights and traditional use of NTFPs is still not defined. The full economic benefits from the community forestry areas are not realized because the procedure to have community forestry is lengthy and complicated and rights are limited. In protected areas, user rights are also limited. Further, existing policies on community access to NTFPs could be disabling rather than enabling community enterprises and is geared towards success of the private industrial forest concessions.

B. NTFP transport and trade

There are supportive policies for improving livelihood of forest-dependent communities, and a policy framework, e.g. the National Forest Program that tackles poverty alleviation through improved livelihood and employment as a primary national objective. However, there are conflicting policies on the rights to harvest, collect and trade NTFPs for local communities. These policy inconsistencies at harvest and transport stages create misinterpretation and confusion. In terms of export or trade outside the country, the tedious policies and process that are currently in place are beyond reach for most community forestry enterprises and often hampers access to transport and trade and scaling up community forestry enterprises. The existing framework and policies also do not include support for commercialization of NTFPs and local capacity development.

C. Recognition and protection of indigenous knowledge, systems and practices on NTFP use and management

There are policies that recognize rights of IPs and their knowledge systems and practices such as the Land Law (2001), but implementation is problematic especially if these rights are pegged with more powerful interests such as concessions as exemplified by the case in the Mondulkiri Protected Forest, where resin tapping is an important economic activity for more than 40% of the people but logged by concessionaires. Situations like this is further exacerbated by the absence of a system that ensures a record of tenure rights and absence of business and human rights principles in practice.

D. NTFP value addition/processing

The NFP reports that local forest product development and marketing is limited and there is a need to create an enabling environment to add value to forest products and create local jobs. There is a sub-program on forest product development and market promotion where the identified means of implementation is a working group set up by the Forest Administration to coordinate activities and cooperate with development partners, NGOs, private sector, and local community involved in forest product development. A study of NTFPs in the Central and Eastern Cambodia listed key issues on NTFP value chain that needs to be worked on such as complicated legislation on NTFP extraction, access to transportation, cost of processing transport permits and other royalties that led to increase in illegal transport of products, and a lack of market channel and market demand information.

E. NTFP financing

The subsector on forest products has identified the following relevant indicators as crucial for sustain-able financing: revenue from forest being reinvest-ed into the sector, and benefits and income from CF activities, including income from sales of forest products. However, there were no reports avail-able for this study to determine how this has been implemented so far. On the other hand, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) have reported to have limited access to finance. Despite high liquidity in the banking sector, many banks find it difficult to give out loans to entrepreneurs in the SME sector due to the thought of their financial records being too poor or the lack of information on whether would-be borrowers have repaid loans and have too much debt. There has also been a relatively weak legal system in place regarding loans with SMEs that make the whole procedure an uncertain one. Given these reports, it can be deduced that micro-small enterprises where most of the NTFP community-based enterprises (CBEs) are categorized, are facing even more challenges about financing than SMEs.

F. Investments and partnerships for NTFP development and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs)

There is an existing enabling policy to foster and support entrepreneurship. Tax incentives for SMEs are in place, but entails submission and processing of voluminous requirements, which looks daunting for the more micro-small NTFP community-based enterprises (CBEs).

Given the aforementioned analysis and findings, this review recommends the following: (1) Secure clear rights of forest dependent communities to forest resources and NTFPs and clear procedure to be undertaken in cases of conflicting rights to resource use; (2) Expansion of community tenure and traditional rights need simplified application and requirement process. There should be supportive policies and guidelines in place to simplify the process of CF legalization and applications for CF and community-protected areas; (3) Establish clarity on what is customary use and set clear indicators when harvest of NTFPs reaches the level of commercialization in terms of volume and kind, as well as when forest charges and taxation comes in; and (4) Develop a more expansive and inclusive policy and corresponding program that supports enterprise development, value addition, product quality, production system, investment and financing, and technology related to NTFPs with greater attention to benefit micro-small NTFP community enterprises and ad-dress their challenges.