Opportunities for Biomass Production in Cambodia

Located in Southeast Asia, Cambodia covers an area of 181 035 square kilometers, with a population of over 14 million (July 2008) of which about 85-90 percent lives in the rural areas (Ministry of Rural Development 2006, Central Intelligence Agency 2008). More than 80 % of energy derives from biomass (De Lopez, 2003). Fuel wood is the major source of energy for rural population and tile brick industries. According to De lopez, natural forests are the main source of fuel wood in Cambodia that lead to severely degradation of forest for the past twenty years. Currently, woody biomass also can be obtained from old rubber plantation by harvesting the old rubber trees (Hevea brasiliensis) (Abe, 2007). In addition, the biomass is not only the produce from woody plants but also the residues from agricultural crops such as rice, sugar cane and maize (ReCambodia, n.d.).

Tree plantations would be highly suitable for supplying biomass fuel for rural mini-grid electrification especially fast growing legumes such as Leucaena spp. and Gliricidia spp., farmers are able to harvest stems and branches one year after planting. There is about 111.3km2 of tree plantations of Acacia spp. And Eucalyptus spp but the purpose of these plantations is generally production of wood chip materials for export (Abe, 2007). Furthermore, there is currently about 2500km2 of grassland with scattered trees area in Cambodia, a substantial proportion of which is abandoned lands and previously cleared forest.Tree plantations for biomass production therefore have great potential for expansion, not only for rural electrification but also for main grid electricity supply (Abe, 2007).

Recently, the government has introduced the Economic Land Concession scheme which allows both domestic and foreign investors to gain access of state land especially wasteland areas for forestry and agro-industrial plantation. As a result, several large scale plantation of Jatropha (Jatropha curcas) are being established for bioenergy production and because Jatropha is a non food and non animal feeding crop, it has the advantage not to compete with food production within the country. In conclusion, Economic Land Concession scheme will provide the opportunities for both oil seed plants and woody tree plantation for biomass production to be established under this scheme. However, the low level of awareness in biomass production from tree plantation is still limited for the policy maker, private sectors and society compare to oil seed plant from Jatropha. The lack of bioenergy technology is also a major obstacle for the development of biomass production in Cambodia.

References List

Forest Conflict in Cambodia (Case: Forest conflict between local communities and forest industries )

In Cambodia, the majority of the population lives in rural areas by earning their livelihood base on forest resources for timber and non-timber forest products. Because nation’s forests provide great benefit to many people, the forest conflicts are avoidable in the society. The conflict between forest industries and local communities in Tum Ring commune, Kampong Thom province was taken as the example because it was the remarkable forest conflict in Cambodia.

After the Royal Government of Cambodia allowed the domestic and international companies to manage and harvest the forest under forest concession permits, local communities in Tum Ring commune were suffered from the forest harvesting operation due to restricted access of forest resources. As a result, there were some conflicts between the local communities and forest concessionaires. Global witness, international ENGO in United Kingdom, started its campaign against forest industries and government to draw the attention from national and international organizations. The forest conflicts seem not to end yet even the government decided to suspend and cancel some the forest concession permits to response to the issues. After forest concession activities were stopped, Economic Land Concession Projects were introduced by the government and conflicts between local people and rubber plantation companies occurred again. Under the intervention from international institutions and the government, the conflict has been solved by offering compensation and other alternative solutions to the local communities. Forest conflict in Cambodia can be seen as the lesson learned of government regarding to forest concession and economic land concession scheme. To avoid forest conflicts, environmental and social economic impact assessments at local level need to be done before the implementation of any development projects like economic land concession (e.g rubber plantation).

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Experiences in Master of European Forestry in EU

I am in Europe for almost 8 months as a part of ERASMUS MUNDUS scholarship program; I experienced several things from professional aspects to social life in European countries. I would like to begin with my internship experience that I gained from a research institute in Europe. As a part of this Master program (Master of European Forestry); I had a valuable opportunity to do my internship at the Laboratory of Forest Policy in the French Institution of Forestry, Agriculture and Environmental Engineering (ENGREF) for three months (October-December 2008). This internship program offered me the chance to work at European research institution and enhance my knowledge about the forest sectors in European Union. I had a nice working time dealing with European forestry policies in some countries.

After finishing internship in France, I returned in Finland to continue my course at University of Joensuu. Up on my arrival in Finland for the first day, I found the weather was extremely cold (- 9 Co to - 25 Co) and it took me few weeks to adapt. Because Erasmus Mundus is an international program, I met with a lot of friends from different countries and experience wide range of cultures. Furthermore, I was offered a basic Finnish Language Course too and with a basic phrase like “Hello (Moi) and Thank you (Kiitos)” which I always use to speak to Finnish people, I felt quite close to this society although most Finns are a little bit reserve and shy.

Regarding the university itself, the learning environments and facilities are well equipped such as internet access, library, and expertise of the professors. In the university, lectures, seminars, independent work and exams have traditionally been the main study methods. Students have a freedom to take any courses that they want since there are no limitations for students in selecting the study courses.

Anyway, this is the last month here in Finland and in May, I will have a long European Field Trip in Spain, France, Germany, The Netherlands and finally Austria. In this meantime I will finish my first year study and then I am going to continue my second year study at University of Wageningen in the Netherlands from September 2009.

MSc of European Forestry Poster