IBIS Rice Program
Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary
Photo © WCS & Adam Roberts @adams.conservation.world
Map of Cambodia showing
KSWS inside Mondulkiri Province
Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary
Established in 2002 by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the Keo Seima Wildife Sanctuary (KSWS) is one of 56 protected areas in Cambodia, now managed by the Ministry of Environment (MoE) with support from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
The wildlife sanctuary supports a rich matrix of habitat types and biodiversity. With over 950 recorded species, KSWS is considered of great global importance for its rich biodiversity.
The KSWS is situated in the foothills of the Annamite Mountains in eastern Cambodia and encompasses a total area of 292,690 hectares, covering parts of Kratie and Mondulkiri provinces.
This region is also home to indigenous Bunong communities, and their livelihoods, cultural and spiritual traditions have been intrinsically connected to the forest for many generations.
Conservation in the KSWS is threatened by a range of factors including agro-industrial land concessions, extensive land clearance and infrastructure development, logging and hunting.
Clouds gather over IBIS Rice fields in Pu Char village during the late rainy season, 2020
The IBIS Rice Program
Sansom Mlup Prey Organization (SMP), in collaboration with WCS, first started the IBIS Rice program in KSWS in 2017.
IBIS Rice aims to give local people living in and around the KSWS a meaningful way to earn income while discontinuing economic activities that have negative conservation impacts, such as logging, poaching, and forest clearance.
Since 2019, the project has received support from USAID to strengthen activity implementation and expand participation.
IBIS Rice farmers grow rice according to international organic standards and agree to conservation commitments. In return, they are offered premium prices for their rice harvest, which is connected to high value international markets in Canada, the USA, Germany, Hong Kong, and Singapore, as well as domestic markets in Cambodia.
Learn more below about the KSWS project
Improved Agricultural Techniques, Better Yields
Farmers involved in the IBIS Rice program in KSWS receive agronomic support, training, and mentoring on the process and regulations involved in growing EU- and USDA-certified organic rice. This primarily involves the disuse of chemical inputs such as fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides which can be harmful to human health and the environment.
Participating farmers learn how to increase their soil fertility, identify and respond to pest, disease and nutrient issues, manage their water use, and establish crops, harvest and handle their product all in the proper manner required by organic and Wildlife-Friendly™ guidelines. Farmers are provided with organic foundation seeds for crop establishment, and trained how to produce their own high-quality seed for future use.
Additionally, SMP works closely with farmers willing to establish demonstration sites in their fields that serve as real-time examples, helping IBIS Rice farmers better understand and follow best practices.
To ensure that farmers are adhering to organic and Wildlife-Friendly™ practices, collaborative monitoring systems are established, and farmers receive close guidance and support on maintaining records of farm activities including planting and harvest dates, rice varieties used, and other pertinent information.
By equipping farmers with improved techniques and knowledge – and providing ongoing agronomic support – SMP has helped IBIS Rice farmers increase their efficiency and productivity, leading to better harvest yields and ultimately increased profits.
In 2020, farmers in Keo Seima sold 7,785 kg of organic rice through the IBIS Rice program, an increase of 4,304 kg from the previous year.
Collecting the IBIS Rice harvest for processing and shipment to high value markets
Speaking with a local farmer during organic compliance inspection
Rice seedlings are densely propagated in nursery beds. After one to three months, the rice is collected and transplanted into paddy fields. Transplanting, as opposed to broadcasting, is the preferred method for establishing organic rice production. It allows for optimal preparation of rice fields, and greatly reduces competition from weeds without the use of herbicides.
Contributing to Wildlife Conservation
The Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary supports a diverse network of habitat types, and has the highest number of recorded species for any protected area in Cambodia. It is home to around 959 recorded species, with at least 15 species first described by science after being encountered in the area.
The KSWS is home to a number of important populations of vulnerable or threatened species including iconic species such as Asian Elephants, Gaur, Yellow-cheeked Gibbons, and Black-shanked Douc.
Environmental conservation efforts in the KSWS are threatened by a range of factors including agro-industrial land concessions, extensive land clearance and infrastructure development, logging, and hunting. These pressures are changing the composition and integrity of the landscapes, and negatively affecting populations of flora and fauna alike.
With support from USAID, the IBIS Rice program, in collaboration with the MoE and the WCS, is providing a collaborative example of a holistic conservation management approach. In addition to ongoing law enforcement, scientific research, and protected area zonation carried out by WCS and MoE, the IBIS Rice program engages communities to put a stop to destructive activities inside the protected area, like chemical use, land clearance, hunting, and logging.
By implementing more environmentally sustainable agricultural practices and establishing conservation agreements with participating farmers, the IBIS Rice program is an essential component of environmental conservation efforts and protected area management in Cambodia.
These conservation agreements with farmers require agricultural and environmental commitment, and they are backed by financial incentives. In exchange for compliance to the IBIS Rice requirements, farmers are guaranteed a stable buyer, and are paid well above the local market price for their harvests.
Photo © WCS & Adam Roberts @adams.conservation.world
Supporting Local Livelihoods
In order to engage communities in stopping environmentally destructive economic activities, local people need support to earn meaningful, living incomes.
As a market-based incentive scheme with social and environmental objectives, SMP and the Ibis Rice Conservation Company, Ltd. (IRCC) guarantee that participating farmers have a stable and assured buyer for their rice. Participants receive premium prices for their harvests, well above local markets prices.
During the 2020 harvest season, participating farmers were paid premiums from 30 to 70% above standard market prices, depending on quality and compliance.
Local farmers checking their rice fields in Keo Seima
The rice produced according to the organic and Wildlife-Friendly™ requirements is connected to high value markets both domestically inside Cambodia and internationally. IBIS Rice is currently making its way around the world to markets in North America, Europe, and Asia.
In addition to the market linkages, guaranteed buyers, premium prices and bonuses, farmers also learn improved agricultural techniques that help them become more cost-efficient, productive, and resilient. This includes the production of foundation seed, resource management, and production of secondary crops.
SMP and IRCC don’t intend to stop there. International consumers are keen to purchase products produced under the IBIS Rice model, such as mung bean, sesame. Diversifying product offerings could bring more people into the program and help farmers diversify their income streams, strengthening both household earnings and economic resilience. SMP and participating farmers have begun this work by piloting trial plantings of mung beans and sesame to determine if it is a viable crop for farmers.