Remarks by Ms. Polly Dunford, Mission Director, USAID Cambodia, Handover of Forest Community Patrol Equipment

Wednesday, June 14, 2017
Mission Director Polly Dunford handed over forest patrol equipment to members of Prey Lang Community Network and Prey Lang Forest Community Network.
Mission Director Polly Dunford handed over forest patrol equipment to members of Prey Lang Community Network and Prey Lang Forest Community Network.

 (as prepared for delivery)


  • Your Excellency Chay Samith, Under Secretary of State of the Ministry of Environment
  • Your Excellency H.E. Sok Lou, Governor of Kampong Thom
  • Development partners
  • Ladies and gentlemen

I have had the privilege of experiencing the awesome beauty of Prey Lang and meeting many of the people who have dedicated their lives to protecting that incredible landscape since I arrived last year. I was touched by their stories and humbled by the challenges they face everyday.  This is one of the many reasons I am pleased to be here today as we recognize communities who live in and near forests as well as the rangers for the incredible responsibility they shoulder. 

Before I go further, I want to commend the Royal Government of Cambodia for its commitment to sustainable development, particularly the Ministry of Environment under the leadership of His Excellency, Minister Say Samal. I would also like to note the strong efforts of sub-national authorities and the participation of community members. Protecting natural resources is not easy for any country. If it is clear that leaders are committed, then, those on the front lines in protecting our forests will feel strengthened. This patrolling equipment will help the community members and rangers – who are Cambodia’s forest protection first responders – continue their good work and bolster the ministry’s commitment to conservation and eco-education. 

The government’s decision to put more natural areas under protection status is an important one. It puts Cambodia on the right path towards healthy and sustainable economic growth. But preservation of natural resources is not only the government’s responsibility – Cambodia’s civil society, youth, and forest communities are also critical to meeting the goal of sustainable growth. 

On a trip to Kratie late last year, I was able to see a thriving, colorful, deep, vibrant ecosystem stretching vast distances. I was also able to see the great threats encroaching on this ecologically important area. In areas once thick with vegetation, there is now arid, empty space. Seeing the healthy forest in contrast with the degraded spaces reminded me how much has been lost, but also how much there is that we still must protect. 

With our partners – the Ministry of Environment, the Forestry Administration, and civil society organizations – I’m proud to say that we’re helping fight deforestation and biodiversity loss in the Eastern Plains and the Prey Lang Landscapes. Our work emphasizes the important contributions of all stakeholders including forest communities, schools, and government officials. These groups must play critical roles if we are to manage the country’s natural resources in a sustainable manner.  

Which brings me to the reason why we are here today. It gives me great pleasure share another example of USAID’s support for the work that you do to save Cambodia’s forest. Through our Supporting Forests and Biodiversity project we will provide patrol equipment to 230 Prey Lang Community Network and Prey Lang Forest Community Network members. The community members come from more than 50 forest communities and are based in the Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary. This sanctuary covers a variety of forest types ranging from  evergreen to open dry forest and provides habitat for important populations of many threatened and endangered species of animals and plants. They are not only important to Cambodia, they are a treasure to the planet.

The high-quality equipment includes rugged backpacks, leather boots, tents, raincoats, hammocks, and headlamps. This equipment will improve the community members’ ability to patrol this important wildlife sanctuary to prevent illegal logging and animal poaching.

This forest patrol equipment complements a law enforcement training course for community members in the four provinces of the Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary that was also funded by USAID.

I am thrilled to hear from forest community members that monthly community patrols over the past year have led to a noticeable reduction in forest crimes. Illegal loggers have been arrested, snares were removed, wildlife was set free, and chainsaws were impounded. We have seen first-hand that when communities and local authorities are given legally-defined roles and adequate resources to co-manage their forests, protection is stronger for it. Because of this, our Supporting Forests and Biodiversity project works closely with the authorities and helps them take responsibility for natural resource management. We also encourage cooperation and joint patrolling between community patrollers, commune officials, and the government’s rangers. It’s truly a team effort!

Once again, I am very happy to be here today. We are proud to work with all Cambodians to protect the country’s incredible natural resources.

Kampong Thom Province
Issuing Country