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Cambodia | 2004 conference report | 2004 conference schedule | 2004 field training programme | Phnom Penh 2004 | Cambodia's pagodas become eco-centres | Cambodian Monks Help Preserve the Cardamoms | Monks promote community forests in Cambodia

Cambodia's pagodas become eco-centres

Cambodian monk's robe. Photo: CI.

After years of suppression under the Khmer Rouge and the unrest that followed, Cambodian people are trying to rebuild a sense of community. And in villages and towns the re-emerging centres of community life tend to be the pagodas. Their monks and nuns are helping people claim the right to education, and guiding them to understand, protect and improve their environment.

Association of Buddhists for the Environment (ABE)

Since 2005 the ABE has been creating a network of monks from all of Cambodia's 23 provinces working to strengthen the Sangha, or community of Buddhist monks and nuns, in order to protect the environment. The ABE was founded in Phnom Penh on 9th March 2005 with the presence of His Eminence of Sangaraja Bou Kry. It was supported by ARC as the consultants of World Bank Asia Faiths/Forest Initiative, and for the outreach workshops and training it worked closely with the conservation NGO, Mlup Baitong.

It is part of the Asian Buddhist Network, initially set up with the help of ARC and the World Bank, and run by monks for monks. It provides capacity building, training and advice for monks throughout the country.
Link here for the ABE's Sangha Network website.
Link here for a story about the ABE's work with Conservation International in the protected Cardamom Mountains.
Link here for a story about the ABE winning Audience Choice Award in 2007 in the Cambodian Environmental Film Festival.

Mlup Baitong

Mlup Baitong means ‘Green Shade’. It is a Cambodian NGO, which started by helping pagodas in Kampong Thom and Kampong Speu provinces to organise environmental projects and develop teaching materials and workshops. In 2002, for example monks raised 27,000 tree saplings to plant in the forests surrounding 14 pagodas. And monks attended 50 workshops and gave over 450 lectures on the environment in towns and villages. With their encouragement, pagodas are becoming centres for monitoring, such as with water surveys, and experimentation, such as with fuel-efficient cooking stoves.

Cambodian monks rebuilding the forest and the community. Photo: CI.
Since 1999 Mlup Baitong has linked villagers, monks, nuns, teachers and students with officials from the Department of Education, the Ministry of Environment, local park officers and the military. They have many success stories: an environmental radio and advocacy programme, the first of its kind in Cambodia, broadcasts twice a week, with coverage to 70% of the country; their women and environment programme has formed 22 small-income groups for village women producing goods for home consumption and for sale at village level; their military environmental training programme trains personnel operating in and outside national park areas on topics such as forestry and wildlife laws. Part of the role of the Asian Buddhist network is to help share such positive experiences – and help maintain momentum.

As one man from Ratanakiri Province told Mlup Baitong: ‘The forest and the land around it is our life. We are nothing without our land, our forest, our streams.’

For a case study of a Mlup Baitong waste management project in Kirirom National Park, see the Blacksmith Institute website.

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August 10 2007:
Cambodian Monks Join Efforts to Preserve the Cardamoms
Deep in the heart of Cambodia’s Central Cardamom Mountains, monks and conservationists are joining together to protect the region’s endangered flora and fauna.