339 villages housing more than 200,000 indigenous people live in and around the Prey Lang forest in Northern Cambodia. It’s an essential watershed that provides water and food security to the country, is a key part of cultural traditions and is integral to the local economy.
Prey Lang sequesters a lot of carbon just by being its 500,000 hectare-self. It fosters more than 27 endangered animals and 20 endangered plants. It fosters countless other plants and animals. It’s also spectacularly beautiful.
Yet, Prey Lang (like so many other forests around the world) is under threat by industrial interests.
Hypothetically, you can mine Prey Lang. Hypothetically, you can harvest the trees of Prey Lang. Hypothetically, you can set up resource processing plants in Prey Lang. And hypothetically, you can get rich off Prey Lang.
But why would you ever do any of these things?
Why would you disrupt an essential, self-sustaining sanctuary that countless people, animals and plants depend on?
For short-term profits?
Excuse me while I lose my faith in humanity.
Now bear with me as I regain my faith in humanity.
Yes, there’s cause for hope.
The people of Prey Lang have banded together to form the Prey Lang Community Network and they’re not sitting idly by as the government parcels out chunks of their forest to industrial interests.
They’re fighting back--peacefully.
Against companies that are leveling vast swaths of the forests, building roads and polluting waterways. And against what are claimed to be pervasive illegal activities.
Prey Lang Community Network is the only watchdog in the area. The only thing stopping free-wheeling exploitation.
According to the UN, “The network uses forest patrols and smartphone technology to geo-reference, document and upload information about forest health, illegal logging and wildlife poaching. As a result of their work, the Government of Cambodia drafted a sub-decree to make Prey Land a protected forest. The network has become the primary source of reliable on-the-ground data about the forest, information that is now used by a range of stakeholders to strengthen advocacy efforts on continued protection of Prey Lang.”
Since 2007, the network has expanded and campaigned against the plundering of Prey Lang. They recently won a "sub-decree" from the government stating that parts of the forest will be protected in the future. However, details are still being agreed upon and many criticisms have been aired.
Who knows if they’ll win, but they’ve raised significant attention and have put the government in the hot seat for its lack of transparency and its refusal to assess environmental impact of industrial activity.
The UN recently awarded them its prestigious Equator Prize for its stewardship of Prey Lang.
I applaud the Prey Lang Community Network and hope that its efforts protect this essential forest.
But they need all the help they can get. This means the international community has to supplement local campaigning efforts with global support.
You can go to TAKE ACTION NOW by calling on world leaders to support the Global Goals, which covers the conservation of nature.