Rapid assessment report to promote sustainable beekeeping in Cambodia

On 15th July 2021, UNESCO, in cooperation with the Civil Society Alliance Forum (CSAF) of the Office of Council of Ministers, in partnership with the Asian Cultural Council and the Asian Vision Institute, and the European Union, organized the virtual launch of the UNESCO Rapid Assessment: Beekeeping Ecosystem at Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve. The first-of-its-kind initiative aims to promote sustainable beekeeping in Cambodia, for fostering biodiversity conservation, food security, eco-tourism development, and livelihoods development for local communities.

The Launch was presided by Yim Chhaily, Deputy Prime Minister and Chair of Chairman, Inter-Ministerial Committee for Coordinating the Implementation of “100 TECHO Villages” (ICCI.100). The event was addressed by Thong Khon, Minister of Tourism; Suos Yara, Director General, Asian Cultural Council; Chuop Paris, Director General of General Directorate of Environmental Knowledge and Information, Ministry of Environment; Carmen Moreno, EU Ambassador to Cambodia, and. Sardar Umar Alam, UNESCO Representative to Cambodia. Angelina Jolie, Godmother of the UNESCO-Guerlain Women for Bees Programme delivered a message for the launch of the report.

More than 150 participants joined the virtual launch event of the Report, which has been produced in both the Khmer and English languages. Attendees included wide-ranging representatives from line ministries, embassies, development partners, associations, civil-society organizations, the private sector, researchers, media, and relevant national and international stakeholders.

During welcome remarks, Sardar Umar Alam expressed his appreciation for the high-level participation from the Royal Government of Cambodia to advocate for promoting sustainable beekeeping as a viable alternative income-generation livelihood opportunity in Cambodia. He stated that, “It is critical to promote public-private partnerships for sustainable beekeeping by keeping people and local communities at the core of all interventions, providing financial incentives for SMEs and the private sector, and strengthening regulatory and quality control mechanisms for bee conservation and bee-products to promote innovative bee-value-chain and green growth in Cambodia.” He further said that “Cambodia has a potential to not only cater to its own domestic apiculture market, but also can export to other high-value markets. This is an opportunity that Cambodia cannot miss.”

Carmen Moreno, the European Union Ambassador to Cambodia, stated in her remarks that “the European Union has ample experience and expertise in the development of Apiculture Programmes, including providing technical assistance, developing bee-based products, research, and value-chain development. For the apiculture years 2020-22, €240 million will be spent on national apiculture programmes in the EU.” She added that, “the EU will work closely with UNESCO in Cambodia to promote bee conservation and sustainable beekeeping in Cambodia, as a model initiative to promote livelihoods opportunities for communities, strengthen food systems and food security, and to promote community-based conservation of natural resources, through integrated scientific solutions.”

Suos Yara, Director General, Asian Cultural Council addressed that “the UNESCO Report will not only play a vital role in promoting conservation and ecological balance in the Tonle Sap area, it will also provide a great opportunity to promote a culture of beekeeping, develop skills, as well as contributing to poverty reduction by increasing employment and income, leading to boosting local economic development.”

Through her voice message, Ms. Angelina Jolie, Godmother of the UNESCO-Guerlain Women for Bees Programme, noted that she is “happy to be working with Guerlain, UNESCO and Maddox’s Foundation in Cambodia to help more women to be trained as beekeepers. Cambodian women are some of the most gracious, resourceful and entrepreneurial people I have ever met. The bees of Cambodia could not be in better hands. I am glad that women from Tonle Sap and Samlot will be taking part in the training.”

Chuop Paris, Director General of General Directorate of Environmental Knowledge and Information, Ministry of Environment mentioned that “UNESCO’s current initial assessment of the beekeeping ecosystem provides benefits to contribute to the community-livelihood improvement and environment protection at Tonle Sap. Beekeeping is an opportunity to provide a source of livelihood for the community, especially for those who depend on natural resources, and to increase the bee population, which is an important part of Biodiversity conservation in the Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve.”

Thong Khon, Minister of Tourism, addressed that beekeeping not only contributes to increasing income and improving the livelihoods of local people, but also creates new tourism products, through the integration of agricultural activities of beekeeping and apitourism development. The Minister added that, “In addition to boosting family and community beekeeping production, the Ministry of Tourism supports and encourages the development of medium- and large-scale beekeeping farms to meet the needs of domestic market and export purpose”.

Yim Chhaily, Deputy Prime Minister, and Chairman of Inter-Ministerial Committee for Coordinating the Implementation of “100 TECHO Villages” (ICCI.100), launched the report, and in his opening speech, noted that “the Report provides essential information and knowledge for beekeeping and conservation in Cambodia. This project is well aligned with TECHO 100 Village Project concept, in which culture is core, and guided by five main pillars including Technology, Education, Cooperation, Humanity, and Ownership to capitalise local resources and potentials for local economic development through local employment and income generation, and sustainable use of natural resources.  Honey and bee by-products can be one of the key products for TECHO 100 Villages Project that will contribute to promotion of Cambodia’s One Village, One Product policy.” The Deputy Prime Minister called for UNESCO to work closely with all stakeholders, especially the Civil Alliance Forum (CSAF), to turn research findings in this Report into actual activities that will be key for providing alternative income-generation for local livelihood improvement, and developing api-tourism/eco-tourism initiatives for diversification and competitiveness.

Following the launch of the report, in line with its recommendations, UNESCO will work closely with the Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Environment, European Union, 100 TECHO-Villages project, and partners, through a range of activities, to capitalize on the high potential of promoting sustainable beekeeping ecosystem in Cambodia, to strengthen innovative business models to reconcile the conservation of natural resources with their sustainable use among small-medium enterprises (SMEs), provide alternative income-generation solutions for local livelihoods enhancement, develop api-tourism initiatives, and foster food security and resilience to climate change in Cambodia.

Eric Guerin, UNESCO Expert presented the findings of the UNESCO Report, which is a unique study of the beekeeping ecosystem and honey production practices at the Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve in Cambodia. The report documents the status of bees and bee activities in Tonle Sap, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and identifies high-potential new practices, and provides recommendations and guidance for the development of sustainable beekeeping in the region. This report directly complements UNESCO’s on-going Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve Project, funded by the European Union, to strengthen conservation and sustainable livelihoods.

The UNESCO Report is produced, as part of the UNESCO-Guerlain partnership, within the framework of UNESCO-LVMH five-year partnership initiated in 2019, to promote biodiversity conservation, sustainable beekeeping practices, and women’s empowerment, at UNESCO Biosphere Reserves around the world. It aims to promote sustainable beekeeping through training and capacity development, the creation of a network of beekeepers for exchange of knowledge and best practices, with a specific focus on women empowerment, and the monitoring of pollination benefits at UNESCO Biosphere Reserves around the world. India Education Diary

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