Oud, Agarwood, Eaglewood, Krassana, gaharu (Aquilaria crassna)
Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 0925394
Aquilaria crassna – Critically Endangered Agarwood is the highly fragrant and valuable resin used for the production of perfumes, incense, medicine and cosmetics and is generated by the Indomalesian tree genus Aquilaria. Agarwood has been used and traded internationally for over 2000 years. Habitat loss and overexploitation through increased demand have dramatically contributed to the decline of agarwood-producing Aquilaria populations. The resin is produced by the tree in response to infection by a parasitic fungus. Signs of presence of agarwood in Aquilaria are not obvious to exploiters lacking in local knowledge. As a result, trees are often cut down indiscriminately in the search for resin with a negative impact on the entire forest ecosystem. In Cambodia, agarwood collection is important to rural communities whose livelihood depends on collecting and selling resin-laden wood.
Bokor National Park (BNP) is one of Cambodia’s largest national parks, containing 14,000 ha of forest that holds a wealth of biodiversity. The construction of the largest hydroelectric dam in Cambodia began in 2007 inside the Park on the Kamchay River in a bamboo and rattan rich area of forest. Land clearance for the dam has already destroyed large tracts of bamboo forest. Half of the Park’s 4,000 ha of bamboo and rattan, along the banks of Kamchay River, will be flooded and lost along with the wealth of biodiversity held within this area and local peoples’ livelihoods as their access to these resources becomes increasingly marginalised. The most important way of generating income for local communities, including O Toch Village, is weaving and selling baskets for the fishing industry. These baskets are made from the bamboo and rattan that grows along the Kamchay River running through the Park (bamboo is used to weave the baskets and rattan to make the handles). In contrast to other rural areas in Cambodia where approximately 85% of the local community depends on agriculture, 95% of O Toch village families rely on producing and selling baskets. The market for baskets is increasing as the fishing industry expands on Tonle Sap Great Lake. As a result, larger quantities of bamboo and rattan are being extracted.. Timber trees were logged out from the degraded forest many years ago, but are an essential component of mature forest. Therefore, timber trees are included in this forest rehabilitation effort. Those trees that will be planted in the sustainable use zone of the CPA will yield timber in future years that can be used by the local communities.
This project concerns both the conservation of the highly threatened Aquilaria as well as the foundation of sustainable livelihoods for the O Toch village. The programme of activities has three streams. Firstly, the study and collection of plant propagation material of Aquilaria, bamboos and rattans from the wild was undertaken. The establishment of a functional nursery facility was completed followed by the propagation and cultivation of the selected species. Repopulation and reintroduction of the plants in-situ was followed by monitoring and surveying of the young plants. The second stream of activities concerned the establishment of the community protected area. The area will be managed and secured by the people of the O Toch village. Decisions over resource management are made democratically in community group meetings. The CPA council is made up of members of the community who were elected by the community to represent them. This area is intended to provide the local community with a sustainable source for their use and long-term development. The third area of activity was centred around training. An international expert in the sustainable use of non-timber forest products instructed and demonstrated the skills and techniques that would be most valuable to the community. In particular the training looked at aspects of plant nursery management, agarwood cultivation techniques and sustainable harvesting methods.
The in-situ/ex-situ conservation of Aquilaria and other species will continue with new plants being used for repopulation and reintroduction. This phase of the project involving integrated practical conservation and local capacity building has provided a solid foundation for both local populations of Aquilaria and community resource sustainability. This project will continue in order to secure long-term advancement for plants and people.
Further details of BGCI’s work can be found at http://www.bgci.org
Project 0925394 location - Cambodia, Asia