Building an Enabling Environment for Sustainable Development

Building an Enabling Environment for Sustainable Development (BESD)




Cambodia, in Asia, is one of the fastest-growing economies with rapid population growth from 6.9 million in 1980 to 16 million in 2018. As a result, the Gross National Income per capita rose from US$300 in 2000 to US$1,140 in 2016 (World Bank). As a result, Cambodia now faces new challenges of natural resource management, the growing volume of solid waste and unreliable energy production.

First, Cambodia challenges to reach sustainable natural resource management. Consequently, its forest cover has gradually declined from 57% to 47% between 2010 and 2014 (see the national REDD+ strategy 2017). Between 2004 in 2017, solid waste disposal in municipal landfills has drastically increased from 318,000 tonnes to 1.5 million tonnes per annum (MoE, 2018). Notably, more than 90 % of all waste  found consists of recyclable materials (e.g. organic 55 %, plastic 21 % and textile 13%) (ibid).

Thirdly, Cambodia has challenges in access to reliable energy for sustaining economic growth. However, the Government has committed to ensuring that household access rates to grid quality power to reach 90% by 2030, implying that 10% of households may remain without access to grid quality power.

Recognizing these challenges UNDP Cambodia with financial support from the Embassy of Sweden, implemented a project to assist the Government in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, tackling the three structural challenges above.

The COVID-19 crisis has caused thousands of people to lose their jobs in Cambodia. Over 100,000 Cambodian migrants have returned to their hometowns that put additional pressure on scarce natural resources. In response to this emerging challenge, the COVID-19 response package was proposed to deliver rapid and short-term solutions in Cambodia. The aim is to provide the jobless with income generation opportunities through engaging them into cash for work through tree-planting, nurseries and related forest protection activities.

Key Expected Outputs

The project focused on the following three results:

  • Output 1: CBNRM institutions strengthened and financial resources mobilised for sustainable NRM;
  • Output 2: Waste reduced, recycled, and reused through the application of circular economy models;
  • Output 3: Improved access to clean, affordable, and sustainable energy for the rural poor.

Achievements to Date

Output 1: CBNRM institutions strengthened and financial resources mobilised for sustainable NRM
CBNRM institutions strengthened through rogatory measures and capacity building. Four Community Protected Area (CPA) five-year management plans and five CPA by-law regulations were reviewed and endorsed through an active consultation process from hundreds of men and women. Hundreds of CPA female and male members actively participated in CPA natural resource planning and management.

The Government also granted access right through resource land allocation for community management. As a result, 798 hectares of newly allocated forest land were endorsed for a CPA expansion, and access and management rights were granted to local communities in Kulen. Moreover, over 800 hectares of Prasat Krahorm watershed were demarcated, facilitating more effective efforts in watershed protection and biodiversity conservation.

Local livelihoods were improved through alternative skills training, animal husbandry and handicraft. This helps reduce pressure and dependency on nature. A solar water pump system installed supplies fresh water to 35 households and 100 schoolboys and girls in Propel village. This helps women and girls to save time for water harvest and increase community hygiene during the pandemic. A water management committee is also in place to collect water fees and maintenance the system.

In responding to the Covid-19 pandemic, a cash-for-work for tree planting was successfully implemented with the objective to provide livelihood supports; and  restore forest cover while reducing the chances that people affected by Covid-19 may turn to income-generating activities that exacerbate pressure on the forest resources. At least 181 hectares of the degraded ecosystem was restored with over 147,800 local tree seedlings. Over 2,810 people from 1,915 vulnerable families, including 513 women-headed households, benefited from this Covid-19 socio-economic response.

Together with the Department of biodiversity of the General Secretariate of the National Council for Sustainable Development (GSSD), two PES pilots in Phnom Kulen National Park in Siem Reap and Kbal Chhay Multiple Use Area in Sihanoukville piloted. Funding options were reviewed, and a mechanism for fee collection, a willingness-to-pay survey, was conducted. PES fund management and fund disbursement were developed. To operationalize PES, three Prakas for PES fund governance structure and PES implementation mechanism were established and waiting for the endorsement from the Minister of Environment.

In terms of policy measures, a National PES Roadmap (2021-2030) in English and Khmer was drafted. PES financing solutions are also integrated with the UNDP Global initiative, which is known as Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN). The initiative still becomes the top five finance solutions for the Government in the next five years.

Output 2: Waste reduced, recycled and reused through the  application of circular economy models
Research barriers and opportunities on plastic management were conducted and shared among the MoE Plastic Taskforce. The project supports the task force to assess policy gaps for circular economy options and alternative businesses in Cambodia by reviewing what works and what doesn’t in the region.

Municipal solid waste management at the sub-national level is promoted.
The National Committee for sub-National Democratic Development Secretariate (NCDDS) installed five waste sorting stations. It is aims to test circular economy practices for Kep municipal government to better manage their solid wast while promoting separation at source practices for waste generators at Key touristed locations, including wet markets. In addition, the Kep administration also includes circular waste management activities in the 3-year rolling plan for Kep city. A Kep municipal Deka was established to promote circular practices on municipal solid waste management in Kep.

The BESD has also contributed a number of key policy development. First, the National Circular Economy (CE) and Action Plan (2021-2035) were endorsed and publicly launched by MoE. A draft sub-decree on plastic management and on-site incineration guidelines was developed.

With MoE, the project conducted a plastic campaign in 2019 during the water festival that reached over 10 million views (30% are women). Two youth groups from the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP) and the National University of Management (NUM) ran plastic campaigns. Numerous 5R educational videos were produced and published through media channels, reaching over 350,000 views, mostly youth. At the same time, the NUM took a significant policy step to adopt free water bottle campus, which will become the first campus to adopt this measure, leading to a saving of US$20,000 per year from drinking water purchase and reducing over 20,000 water bottles.

Besides, four eco-friendly circular resorts were featured, and a MoE certificate of appreciation to four eco-friendly resorts and hotels were granted in Kep Province. A handbook for implementing Circular Economy practices in hotels and restaurants was also developed and shared among actors. Furthermore, a CE private platform was developed to support business innovations for plastic, organic waste and alternative materials in Cambodia. The MoE manages the platform for the post-project duration.

The project has also leveraged other funding for its sustainability. A US$ 3,028,851 million Japan-funded project, “Combatting Marine Plastic Litter project (2021-2023),” is considered one of the success stories to carry the BESD legacy to fight plastic waste and promotion of circular businesses models. Similarly, to tackle medical waste during the Covid-19 pandemic, another medical waste proposal with a total budget of US$834,000 was also approved with funding from China’s South-South Cooperation Assistance Fund (SSCAF).

Output 3: Improved access to clean, affordable, and sustainable energy for the rural poor.
Solar energy for improving energy access and increasing rural communities’ resilience has been piloted in four villages, benefiting over 225 unelectrified households. Solar DC-micro grids at Kampong Chhnang electrified 140 households covering three villages. Further, a solar mini-grid was also installed to electrify an indigenous community (85 households) in Ratanakiri Province. These two off-grid solar systems and related business models were supported by the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME). In the future, Rural Electricity Enterprise (REEs) may likely get engaged in the electrification of off-grid villages.

Worked closely with the Ministry of Environment (MOE) to install a 32 kW AC off-grid system at a sub-ranger station in Phnom Aural Wildlife Sanctuary in Sre Ampil Community, Kampong Chhnang Province. MoE repurposed some funds and installed a Solar PV system at Heng Samrin Chok High School, benefiting 913 students (520 females) and 37 teachers (9 women) in their virtual schooling, as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Through an incubation programme, the project gave birth to 3 teams (Cricket House, Sunla, and GFC), connecting them to local and global markets. These three start-ups use  solar energy to power productive applications, thereby creating alternative livelihoods for marginalised farmers. This has supported 63 jobs (both direct and indirect), including 47 women.

Capacity building in the installation and maintenance of solar. The maintenance of the solar home system (SHS) and awareness-raising on solar energy was provided to 168 participants (55 women). The SHS guideline was developed, and SHS leaflets were published in both Khmer and English and distributed to local technicians. Finally, a video documentary on SHS was published on the MME Facebook page to reach a wider audience group.

The project has contributed to several clean energy policy measures. First, the Energy Efficiency Design Guideline for Residential and Commercial Buildings was finalised. This guideline will be integrated into Building Technical Regulation (BTR), commonly known as building code. Also, the project helped to leverage funding from DFAT for off-grid electrification through its 3i programme in the launch of the “Off-grid electrification with solar mini-grids for Cambodia” project with MME Electricity Association of Cambodia (EAC) and Electricité du Cambodge (EDC). This project will be investing about US$1.5 million in two phases during 2021 and 2022 to electrify off-grid villages in Cambodia. 

Voices from the FIELD 

If we can keep the forest, we can earn a lot from natural resources, such as NTFPs. More importantly, we can attract tourists when they visit our community and earn money through that as well.”, said 32-year-old Yerm Roeung.

The spirit tries to protect the forest. But the forest is now gone – people are just cutting it down. “Before, we could get wild animals, fish for food and fuelwood for cooking. We would share within our community. Now that tradition is dead. We have to go buy it in the market”, 65-year-old Srey puts it.

“If we lost the forests, I also have concerns about the water availability because where there is forests, you have water,” Veng worries. “There is a close link between forests and water. If we have the forests, we still have water.”, said 72-year-old Veng in Phnom Kulen.









Voices from the FIELD 

"Before, I used to work in another country and after the outbreak of COVID-19, I moved back to Cambodia to stay at home. Now I have been selected to join this project to grow plants. I am so grateful for the donor of this project for creating these jobs, so villagers have income to support our livelihoods”, said Ms. Mok Mai, Pouk Villager, Pouk District, Siem Reap Province.

Cash for Work Initiative: COVDI-19 Economic Response


Natural Resource Management on Phnom Kulen

Circular economy related practices within businesses and communities to gain economic.

Plastic Awareness Raising Videos

Cambodia's Environment Minister Launching Plastic Awareness Raising Videos

4R for Plastic Music Video - Norodom Jenna


Episode 1: What is Plastic?

Episode 2: Plastic Waste

Episode 3: What are the 4Rs?