Ibis Rice is a scheme, active since 2007 in three Protected Areas in Northern Cambodia, whereby communities are incentivized to protect critical habitat through sales of a high-quality agricultural product. Under the scheme, farmers that abide by the rules, including agreed land-use plans and no-hunting laws, are able to sell their rice through the village committee, which is legally mandated to administer the land-use plan.
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‘Wildlife-Friendly Ibis RiceTM’ is grown in the paddy fields of Preah Vihear province, on Cambodia’s Northern Plains. The Ibis RiceTM project aims to protect critically endangered birds and mammals, and prevent further loss of their habitat, which is being replaced by large and small-scale agriculture. Small-scale farmers from fifteen villages receive a price premium on their rice, in exchange for implementing conservation agreements. These limit the conversion of wetland areas to rice fields, and ban hunting of rare water birds.
The solution proposes to work with the Cambodian government to help reposition its protected area system as part of the means for realizing, rather than hindering, development objectives, in particular as they relate to poverty alleviation. Conservation International (CI) has completed a preliminary assessment that indicates 68 percent of Cambodia’s critical natural capital is still intact. Approximately 42 precent is covered by its protected area system.
Through eco-tourism the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), park authorities, business and community partners are protecting globally significant populations of endangered species in northern Cambodia. These enterprises also generate enough revenue for local people to change their behavior to more wildlife friendly ways, while also increasing their wealth. Communities manage eco-lodges and employ their members as service providers like guides.