Sacred in the local tradition, Kulen mountain, in Cambodia, was devastated by illegal logging. UN project reforested the region and brought rain and agriculture to the population

In less than five years, a reforestation project transformed the arid region of Kulen mountain, in Cambodia. The UN Environment program, a partnership with the local government, sowed 100 thousand seedlings, planted more than 250 thousand trees and protected the forest’s remaining 306 hectares against illegal loggers: as a result, the area saw the return of the rain and reached climate balance.

The return of the rain and a well-established climate directly benefited the 300-inhabitant community living across 65 houses located near the mountaintop. “Before 2014, the rain was too little, but now it’s better, especially this year,” said Thuch Ron, who heads Chuop Tasok’s community protected area, in a statement to the UN.

“When we start planting, everyone helps,” recalled Thuch Ron. “When this nursery produces seedlings and restores the forest cover, we get more rain and better rice harvest,” he said.

Deforestation devastated region in Cambodia

According to the local tradition, Kulen mountain is a sacred place and associated with fertility. However, in the past decades, it served as a raw material source for illicit logging: criminals cut down trees across large forest areas to trade timber.

“The big trees that used to be here attracted the rain. With them gone, we had no water and our area was drying up,” local Yuth Thy, 46, told the UN. “When I was a girl, there would be lots of rain and even hail, and it would get cold. I remember seeing steam coming from my mouth when I spoke. Now there’s less rain, and it never gets cold,” she concluded.

Rice used to be the primary agricultural product in the Kulen region, but, as the drought expanded, the fields shrank – and the local population had to sell properties and even animals. Before the reforestation process, when climate conditions prevented agriculture, locals were forced to collect edible roots in the forest to feed themselves.

Today, the program sponsored by UN Environment allows the community to rear animals, keep fruit trees and have access to a continued supply of potable water, coming from a reservoir built at the mountaintop. Moreover, the population has been trained to plant seeds and make domestic gardens, and schools have been teaching environmental preservation and about climate change.

“I tell my daughter that she needs to care for trees and they will care for her. When you protect the trees and the forest, they bring you rain and make the weather cooler,” completed Thy.

Content published in April 16, 2019

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