Forests are our allies in the global fight against climate change. In addition to removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and producing oxygen, forests also provide sustainable sources of income for forest communities and contribute to water security, which is the foundation for food security. Sustainable forest management strengthens resilience to climate shocks like droughts, floods and erratic weather, which together can lead to public health crises, migration and conflict. USAID and Winrock are pursuing multiple strategies to strengthen resilience, sustain forests and support the communities that rely on them.
Biodiversity is a cornerstone of ecosystem resilience. By protecting critical forests, we can also safeguard the world’s most biodiverse areas. Destinations with globally significant biodiversity like Cambodia’s Sandan region have a unique opportunity to preserve forestland, and reap all the associated benefits, by promoting ecotourism. Ecotourism doesn’t only benefit adventurous tourists who appreciate the beauty of nature. Raising awareness of biodiversity inspires locals to take pride in their environment and help protect it. Locals also benefit from tourism revenue, which supports local businesses and can be used to fund additional conservation efforts.
In the lush Sandan District of Cambodia’s Kampong Thom Province, plants run wild. The region’s mosaic of different habitats — dense evergreen forests, important riparian buffer zones, cultivated land, seasonally flooded farmland — provides a diverse sampling of plant species and functions. Local communities use local flora as food, medicine and building material, while several threatened wildlife species make their habitats in the greenery.
The USAID Supporting Forests and Biodiversity (SFB) project, implemented by Winrock International, recently compiled a guidebook of culturally significant plant species found in Sandan’s Community Forest areas. Following a similar format to the project’s previous guide “Birds in Sandan,” the book presents short profiles of more than 30 plant species regularly used by the community, including beautiful photographs, local Khmer names for each species, scientific binomials and plant families, brief botanical descriptions, and suggested uses.
“This book has been produced as an ethnobotanical manual which will inform visitors to the Community Forest areas,” said SFB Chief of Party Dr. Joel Jurgens. “Its aim is to give an idea of the traditional importance of Sandan’s flora and the diverse ways in which it is used.”
Much of the information in the guide comes from local plant experts within the Sandan community, who helped the SFB team select and identify specimens of the featured species. Species important beyond the local community and Cambodian market have additional details on international uses and applications.
The plants of Sandan remain an important local resource, supporting economic and cultural resilience. As Cambodia develops and urbanization increases, there is a danger that traditional knowledge will be lost. This guide seeks to encourage interest in this fascinating aspect of Khmer culture, educate the increasing number of local and international tourists who visit the sites around Prey Lang, and support on-going efforts to protect Cambodia’s rich natural heritage for future generations.
To download the “Useful Plants of Sadan: A Brief Guide for Visitors to the Sadan Community Ecotourism Site Cambodia” guidebook, click here.
This blog was originally published by Winrock International.
Winrock International is a recognized leader in U.S. and international development, providing solutions to some of the world’s most complex social, agricultural and environmental challenges. Inspired by its namesake Winthrop Rockefeller, Winrock’s mission is to empower the disadvantaged, increase economic opportunity and sustain natural resources.