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EditPhoto Title:Tonle Sap Lake: Conserving Cambodia’s Fish Factory
EditPhoto Description:Home to more than 3 million people, the Tonle Sap floodplain supports one of the world’s most productive freshwater fisheries
EditImage Url:/SiteCollectionImages/ci_94491816.jpg
EditImage Description:Anlung Reang floating village on Tonle Sap Lake, Cambodia.
EditPhoto Credit:© Kristin Harrison and Jeremy Ginsberg
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Southeast Asia’s largest lake, Cambodia's Tonle Sap more than quadruples in size during monsoon season, flushing the region with water and life.

Many residents of the Tonle Sap floodplain live in floating villages on the lake, and more than 90% directly rely on the seasonally flooded forests for fresh water, food, fuelwood and other essential resources.

Tonle Sap and the inland waters system in Cambodia support some 500,000 tons of fish each year, and the flooded forests purify water and buffer communities from storms — an increasingly important benefit as climate change makes extreme weather more frequent.

But Cambodia’s flooded forests are being destroyed by unsustainable human activities.



Our role

Since 2008, CI has been working to ensure that Tonle Sap Lake and its floodplain remain a healthy freshwater ecosystem able to support Cambodia’s people, wildlife and economy. Together with partners, we offer alternative means of income that put less strain on natural resources, improve access to clean drinking water and expand scientific knowledge about the economic value of the Tonle Sap and the importance of protecting it.


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Edit Item Title:Improving lives
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Edit Item Text:In Tonle Sap’s floating villages, CI is improving incomes and livelihoods for some of Cambodia’s poorest people. We are working directly with communities to promote sustainable use of resources through fuel-efficient cookstoves, to provide access to clean water and to support sustainable fishing and fish processing practices.
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Edit Item Title:Restoring essential ecosystems
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Edit Item Text:CI and partners continue to replant and protect flooded forests in key areas in order to increase wildlife habitat and improve fishery productivity. We also work with government and community ranger patrols to prevent illegal fishing and have installed artificial reefs in critically threatened habitats.
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Edit Item Title:Sharing knowledge
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Edit Item Text:We are providing key technical support to the Cambodian government on a variety of conservation issues. Recently, we worked with the Fisheries Administration to protect newly declared conservation and community fish access areas. We also host local participants to raise awareness about climate change impacts and possible ways to mitigate these threats.
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EditImage:/SiteCollectionImages/ci_26840549.jpg
EditImage Alt Text:Woman rowing boat
EditTitle:By the numbers
EditSubtitle:$2 billion fish industry
EditText:Tonle Sap and Cambodia’s inland fisheries account for more than two-thirds of Cambodia’s protein consumption and are worth an estimated US$ 2 billion annually.
EditPhoto Credit:© Olivier Langrand
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      EditSection Title:Women’s Fish Processing Project
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        EditImage Description: Women fish processing activities.
        EditText: CI is working to improve the economic and nutritional well-being of women involved in fish processing in Pursat province — while also ensuring their sustainable use of the natural resources needed in their work.

        The main source of income for floating households on Tonle Sap Lake is the sale of fish and processed fish, which is typically smoked or converted into a paste. However, the traditional method used is inefficient and unhygienic; and the practice of open-air fish smoking can lead to serious respiratory illness and overuse of fuelwood, a limited natural resource that is contributing to deforestation of the lake’s flooded forests.

        Funded by USAID’s HARVEST program, the women’s fish processing project has trained more than 88 women — with more than 100 more currently in training — in more hygienic, efficient fish processing methods. After completing the training, the women produce a higher quality product and can charge more for it. CI is also focusing on improving year-round access to fish through improved fish storage options, which will improve food security for these families.
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        EditPhoto Credit:© Conservation International/photo by Sophak Sett
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          EditSection Title:Supporting alternative businesses
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            EditImage URL: /SiteCollectionImages/ci_59432934.jpg
            EditImage Description: Fishing on Tonle Sap at sunset near Akal village.
            EditText: Another challenge faced by households on the lake is insufficient funds to start new enterprises. At the village level, CI is facilitating the use of savings groups in which community members pool their money and provide each other with loans that enable members to invest in new business ventures. These low-interest loans serve as financial insurance for women in the event of financial or natural shocks, such as the flooding that took place in 2012.
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            EditPhoto Credit:© Kristin Harrison & Jeremy Ginsberg
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              More of Our Work Links

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              First Image

              EditTitle:Climate
              EditImage:/SiteCollectionImages/ci_30785027.jpg
              EditLink:/what/Pages/Climate.aspx
              EditImage Alt Text:Night falls over Rio de Janeiro. © Nikada

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              EditTitle:Science and Innovation
              EditImage:/SiteCollectionImages/ci_80568511.tif
              EditLink:/how/pages/science-and-innovation.aspx
              EditImage Alt Text:Scientists set a camera trap. © Benjamin Drummond

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              EditTitle:The Ocean
              EditImage:/SiteCollectionImages/ci_16084886.jpg
              EditLink:/what/Pages/oceans.aspx
              EditImage Alt Text:Coral reef in Viti Levu, Fiji, Oceania. © William Crosse