Mrs. San Vansen is 55 years old and has five children. She is the deputy chief of Ent Chey Community Forest Management Committee (CFMC), Sambor District, Kratie Province. Vansen (pictured above, yellow shirt, center) helps lead 222 community forest members, almost half of whom are women, in the struggle to protect their forest. Vansen has been involved with community forest protection activities for 15 years, and through the USAID Supporting Forests and Biodiversity Project implemented by Winrock International, has received training on livelihood improvement, patrolling strategies and relevant forest laws.
How do you see the role of women in the protection of community forests today?
“Back in 2002, there were very few women from the community involved in forest protection, but since 2013, more have joined and the total number has increased to 102 women from a total of 222 members. The women members actively participate not only in decision-making and management of natural resources, but also in forest patrol activities. However, we still feel we need many more stakeholders to join us protecting the forest.”
What inspires women to join activities to protect the forest?
“We have learned a lot about gender and development. Many women have recently joined patrols with us and they have a good understanding on the value of forest protection and biodiversity conservation. Many of us depend on the non-timber forest products for our livelihood, collecting things such as wild fruits, mushrooms, resin, honey, and bamboo shoots. Women from this community say,“We protect the forest as we protect our lives. Cutting the forest means we kill ourselves.”
Does women’s participation increase effectiveness of the forest patrol activities?
“Sometimes women are more courageous than men. We join the patrols voluntarily and we have enough energy to walk into the forest. Although the illegal loggers have threated to kill us, we still stand up to protect the forest. We currently have four patrol groups and we have 15-17 people in each group. Each group patrols twice a month, so we conduct a total of eight patrols a month. However, we still need support from the men to join us and take care of our security and safety.”
What pressures are affecting the Ent Chey Community Forest?
“Illegal logging, poaching and land encroachment are rampant, and are committed by both insiders and outsiders. They use snares to trap wildlife and chainsaws to cut the big trees. Fifteen years ago, there were only three chainsaws in the whole community, but now commune council reports indicate that there are almost 50 chainsaws being used illegally. In addition, private land concessions are a big concern for us. We need to have a good balance between protecting the forest and development.”
What has USAID SFB provided to your community to respond to this situation?
“USAID SFB has trained our community members on livelihood improvement, how to effectively patrol our forest and recently provided us with high-quality forest patrol equipment, as well as developed rules and guidelines for co-patrolling. We truly thank USAID for supporting us in protecting the Ent Chey community forest. With this support from USAID, all of our 222 community members in the CFMC team now are able to continue patrolling and have a better understanding of forest laws.”
The content of this interview is the sole responsibility of Winrock International and does not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.