The Angkor Community Heritage & Economic Advancement (ACHA) project was a multi-year project funded by the New Zealand government to establish sustainable management of Angkor Park that protects the historical heritage of the religious monuments while providing economic prosperity and food security for the people who live within the park. The project was completed in late 2018.
Activities focused on:
- Improved income and food security in participating communities
- Increased yields and production from agriculture
- Enhanced protection of Angkor Park and sustainable practices in participating communities and targeted areas
- Community inclusive park management in participating communities
Changing weather events are increasing the occurrence of extreme events in both the wet and dry seasons. Effective water management can reduce the impacts of these events, helping communities to be more resilient in the face of changing conditions. ACHA achieved this via:
Direction, control and storage of water, contributing to greater water management and corresponding values across the Angkor World Heritage Site;
Promoting agricultural techniques for selected dry season crops with local communities, providing farmers with multiple benefits. For example, water efficient techniques and solar pumps have also been utilized to increase the coverage of water supply for higher dry season yields from irrigation;
Increased water storage, riparian management and ground water recharge, benefiting local communities nutritionally and financially from fish and fruit yields, enhancing food security;
Actively controlled upstream water management, reducing flood impacts within the town of Siem Reap;
Reducing flood impacts within AWHA, reducing closures of the area to tourism and loss of associated benefits; and
Facilitating community water user groups to help manage water demand, especially for dry season agriculture.
The project worked with the 112 villages in the Angkor World Heritage site, but also strategically worked across villages in the water catchment, including Phnom Kulen and Chau Srey Vibol.
Thirteen demonstration farms have been established promoting better farming systems and new crops, which has increased yields and production. Farmers are now wanting to try the new techniques. Additional agricultural activities established include raising chickens, fish farming, mushroom growing, and bee-keeping. Community-based tourism activities, such as ox-carts, boat rides, a proposed Heritage Bike Trail and cooking classes are providing additional income, and encourage better resource management. Brochures, billboards and community groups have been formed to promote new sustainable tourism ventures.
Water Structures have been developed for specific irrigation and general flood reduction. These structures will support income and food security improvements and increase yields. These water structures are already protecting the monuments of Angkor Park, and have been developed inclusively with community education and engagement, which has enhanced community participation of water management through water use and tree planting, created new opportunities for communication and coordination and have contributed toward better water, forest and natural resource use. Water infrastructure is not only important for farmers, but essential to the safely and stability of the temples, to secure ground water for wells, mitigate flooding, and for ecological maintenance of the local Kulen watershed. This water management system is contributing toward reduced food and drought impacts in the region. This work positively impacts most of the people of Siem Reap town and the catchments of Siem Reap (estimated at over 200,000 people). The volume of water available for storage is currently at 2.2 million cubic metres.
Buddhism for Development is the service provider supporting the Council of Monks in Angkor Park Pagoda Affairs committee. Part of the role of the council is to facilitate and encourage community participation in heritage management, through capacity building to monks, provision of documentation and books, study trips, and other methods of dissemination. Through support from the project the Council of Monks is working across 35 Pagodas and is a major step toward more community inclusive park management, and also enhances wider protection of the monuments.
At the conclusion of the project an economic valuation report was presented. The report used an eco-system services based framework to assess the economic benefits derived over the course of the project, and five years into the future. The report focused primarily on direct benefits derived within the area, and from water management to Siem Reap township. Benefits were divided into four types:
- Cultural service benefits
- Livelihood improvements from improved water management
- Tourism benefits from mitigated flooding
- Flood protection for Siem Reap township (located downstream)
Total economic benefits derived from this project are in the range of US$9,500,308 - $13,419,417. Projected economic benefits to 2023 are in the range of $52,484,104 - $71,481,007. Additional non-economic benefits include food security (higher than in comparable regions within Cambodia), pagoda revitalisation, heritage appreciation, and emigrant attraction. Watershed management has also enabled household livelihood diversification beyond traditional rice and tourism services.
The ACHA project has generated significant benefits that deliver against project goals of Improved income and food security and enhanced sustainable practice. Moreover, it has delivered immense economic benefits to the AWHA and surrounding areas. Long term monitoring and evaluation will enable benefits to be demonstrated beyond the ACHA project timeframe, and support Apsara National Authority’s continued effective management of this unique heritage area.