The Wildlife Conservation Society was awarded a DM grant in 2008 to pilot Cambodia's first market for payment for environmental services generated from agriculture using a "wildlife-friendly" branding and marketing strategy. Here is an update after 4 seasons.
In early 2009, when Ibis Rice first hit the dining tables of ten of Siem Reap’s elite and socially responsible hotels and restaurants, Le Meridien Angkor was amongst them. Going on the basis of a tasty sample and the willingness to aid conservation in Cambodia, these early supporters were vital to the fledgling enterprise. Today many have joined the ranks of Wildlife Friendly® establishments, both here and in Phnom Penh.
In Cambodia’s Northern Plains, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has been working to protect a landscape that is home to over 50 threatened species. WCS engages local communities in this area by linking livelihoods to conservation, partnering with local farmers’ cooperatives and Sansom Mlup Prey (SMP), the local NGO established to market Ibis Rice.
This January marks the start of SMP’s fourth year of bringing the rice to consumers. As of the end of January, SMP has procured, from 7 villages, 130,417 kilograms of Ibis Rice or pkha malis, a fragrant variety of rice, grown by farmers who have agreed to abide by the conservation rules in the protected areas. So far 139 families have sold rice and all received a premium for their Wildlife Friendly®-certified paddy. A total of 11 villages will be part of the program in 2012, an increase of 5 from last year; costs associated with buying rice have also increased from a year ago.
The critically endangered giant ibis, Cambodia’s national bird, lives in the fragmented forests of Cambodia’s Northern Plains, hence the brand name: Ibis Rice. Although there are fewer than 500 individuals globally, because of the work of WCS and local partners, they are relatively easy to see in Cambodia.
Ibis Rice aims to be financially sustainable by growing the sales of several grades of both white and brown rice, and Le Meridien Angkor is the first of the Wildlife Friendly establishments to sign up for a guaranteed minimum, with an amount three times their usual order. This shows their confidence in the product and their continuing commitment to conservation in Cambodia. SMP and WCS are looking forward to more such demonstrations of support, and with continued growth, Ibis Rice will be well on its way to being a staple on the plates of Cambodia.