With common objectives and activities across Asia, AFoCO and the KMFCC have been working closely for five years. A significant milestone was officially marked in May 2021 when the two entities inked the Agreement on Operation Arrangement (AOA)—an agreement that accords with mutual cooperation and enhancement of synergy activities in the Mekong region. Following the AOA signing, in the same year when the region was hardly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, a series of online meetings were conducted to introduce the KMFCC to ongoing projects in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Viet Nam (CLMV) that are being funded and overseen by AFoCO. As of November 2022, the AFoCO has 13 individual ongoing projects in CLMV countries, totaling USD 10.8 million. AFoCO is also managing two regional projects that involve the CLMV countries.
In early November this year, the KMFCC was, for the first time, involved in the monitoring activity of the AFoCO project in Viet Nam on the “Conservation and development of forest ecosystems biodiversity resources at Cat Tien National Park (AFoCO/024/2021)” The project is slated to be implemented over a five-year period with a total budget of USD 1.1 million. It is being implemented in one of the largest national parks in Viet Nam aiming to improve conservation activities of forest ecosystem biodiversity while promoting the development activities and community livelihoods in the park’s buffer zone. Cat Tien National Park (CTNP) is situated 150km north of Ho Chi Minh City and covers 82,597 hectares of area across three provinces—Lam Dong, Dong Nai and Binh Phuoc Provinces. After getting approval at the 4th Session of the AFoCO Assembly and completing all necessary inception arrangements, the project commenced its activities in July 2021.
A four-day monitoring activity was planned and conducted with success in Viet Nam in November 2022. The monitoring team led by Dr. Kong Young Ho, Director of the KMFCC, visited the project sites to assess its progress. The sites located both in the core zone and buffer zone of the CTNP include improved grassland areas for ungulates, the established golden camellia plantation, the area planned for orchid greenhouse construction, Bird Lake where the activity of controlling Mimosa pigra was conducted, Crocodile Lake where the activity of removing floating vegetation was conducted, homestay model for promoting eco-tourism activity, pasture grazing areas where the households living in the buffer zone were supported, and the areas where households were trained and supported to plant economic fruit trees.
Meetings and group discussion sessions were conducted to explain the monitoring purposes and to clarify issues arising from field observations. The monitoring team had the opportunity to meet with and talk to the project stakeholders including the management of the park, rangers, local administrative authorities, and villagers. “The purpose of the monitoring is to provide regular and timely updates on project implementation,” Dr. Kong Young Ho explained in one of the meetings. He further mentioned that the KMFCC will “observe the project progress based on the progress report, while at the same time we can identify any corrective actions needed for effective and efficient implementation of the project“.
The challenges identified from the monitoring exercise and proposed solutions will be compiled by the Project Management Unit and then reported to the PSC for consideration and approval. “Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and some other unpredictable constraints, the project activities met with some delays,” said Dr. Pham Huu Khanh, Chief of Science and International Cooperation Department of the CTNP and Project Coordinator for AFoCO/024/2021. “We will try our best to implement the project activities up to 80% of the plan by the end of 2022,” he added.
The KMFCC will continue to support AFoCO in more project-related activities in the region. AFoCO’s projects and program management in the Mekong region will be actively and closely monitored with the support of the KMFCC, which is strategically located in the Mekong region in Cambodia. Cooperation through project development and evaluation as well as other capacity-building activities in the region will also be pursued.
Contributed by Chhorn Vireak, Program Officer at Korea-Mekong Forest Cooperation Center (KMFCC)
(Vireak was also a 2020 AFoCO Fellowship Official from Cambodia)