Produced for The Learning Institute

Through the SEAFDEC-funded Strengthening Community Fisheries (CFi’s) Management and Livelihood Diversification in Cambodia project, The Learning Institute has helped community fisheries integrate a gender perspective and through the support provided, the Bak Amrek-Doun En CFi is now a great example of gender equality in action.  

"The Women of Bak Amrek" is a short film developed by The Learning Institute during a field visit in 2017. We followed the footsteps of the community members who took us to the fish conservation zone and plantation and farming sites. We had the opportunity to have several conversations with CFi committee members and others on the matter of women’s representation and gender awareness in the community.

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Strengthening Community Fisheries (CFi’s) Management and Livelihood Diversification in Cambodia had three vital objectives:
1) Strengthen the legal and constitutional rights of community members and fisher-folk around the Tonle Sap Lake and in Coastal Provinces of Cambodia through improved and diversified livelihoods options and sustainable management of CFi’s,
2) enhance the capacity of local fisher-folk, women and youth groups, community fisheries organizations in the "Coastal and Inland areas of Cambodia" including the capacity of staff of the Fisheries Administration and provincial agencies in support of sustainable fisheries and habitat management, and
3) improving the recognition of the role of women and integrate a gender perspective in the development of rural/coastal livelihoods and in community fisheries (and habitat) management.

The project was implemented in seven Community Fisheries (CFi) spread across six provinces: Kampot, Kep and Preah Sihanouk in the Coastal region and Kampong Chhnang, Pursat, and Battambang in the Tonle Sap region.

During the course of the project, a large number of activities were planned and executed and through the scoping study that was conducted in 2014 in each of the CFis, it was found that while the value of women’s participation is being noted and respected, it is rare for a woman to play a key role such as the chief of a CFi.

More often than not, women in the CFis are well known as leaders of savings groups, crab banks and fish processing groups. The challenge of CFIs in relation to women’s involvement is about the limited number of women representatives. The initial scoping mission concluded that there was a big gap that needed to be filled for better management of fisheries using gender approaches (2013-2015 Report).

While there were some gender-specified activities planned, it was decided that the integration of a gender perspective in the Community Fisheries could be best applied if it was implemented as part of the other activities.

The gender awareness and best practices training was conducted April to May in 2015 and March to April in 2016.

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These two-day training courses were conducted in the CFis and were participated in by the CFi members, community members and also the local authorities. CFi’s from Kep and Kampot were not targeted as a part of this training as they had previously received gender training through another project with the Learning Institute.

This training module covered points such as the definition and distinction between gender and sex, gender roles, gender equity and equality, gender bias and implicating the role of women in CFi management. A Gender Concept Module (Training Manual on Gender Foundation in Fishery Community Management) was later develop for use as additional material while conducting other activities to introduce the concept of gender as it was found during the training module that the distinction between gender and sex wasn’t always clear.

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During the 2014 scoping mission, The Learning Institute found that the Anlung Reang CFi (Pursat Province) and the Sdey Krom Rohal Soung CFi (Battambang Province) were rare cases in comparison to the others as there already was a high rate of engagement from the women hence achieving a large number of accomplishments not just in CFi management but also other livelihood interventions (2013-2015 Report). 

 In due course, the Bak Amrek Doun-En CFi (Battambang Province) has also proven to be a success in integrating women into their CFi management as well as livelihood interventions.

Through this project, The Learning Institute has also been able to assist in reviving the women’s savings group in Bak Amrek Doun-En and Phum Thmey CFi. While the savings groups had been created previously, they had remained inactive due to lack of interest, support and also funds. As part of a youth activity, The Learning Institute issued a grant for savings groups and they have now been given a fresh start with a mix of younger and older male and female members and has provided aid to several individuals.

Although one of the smaller CFis in size (1075 Ha), the Bak Amrek Doun-En CFi has the largest number of CFi committee with nine people of which three are female. There are also 360 CFi members where 222 are female.

The main livelihood activities in the community are fishing, farming, rearing livestock as well as some small businesses. Although they have had setbacks with a lack of community support and an inadequate number of people to crackdown on the use of illegal fishing gear, they have been very successful in setting up a conservation site that produces benefits during both the dry and rainy season. The integration of women in these communities cannot be implemented by force. It needs the involvement and participation of both men and women to introduce these changes and Bak Amrek has welcomed this.

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Sou Sous, a CFi committee member in Bak Amrek Doun-En, said that unlike previous times when women didn’t have any functions in leadership roles, that has changed. Today, women are strong enough to lead. As someone who has been well-informed about the concept of gender through previous training and workshops, he also adds that while women need to be given the more central focus, gender is not only an emphasis on women but also on men.

During the conversation, it was clear to see that Mr. Sous was proud of the women in his community but more so of those  CFi members with whom he works closely as these women have been quick to take the initiative and solve imminent problems they’ve faced in their fisheries conservation site.

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Mr. Sous also talked about how the inclusion of women in the patrolling groups are an asset. He gave us an example of the illegal fishers; that offenders include both men and women.

As men, when they go to confront them and put a stop to it, either the men get violent or the women start appealing to them and in both cases, they feel handicapped. But with women now included in the group, they can help diffuse the violence as well as talk directly to the women and this results in them being able to confiscate the illegal gear.

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Mr. Sous adds that the end of the Learning Institute’s project in their community will not be a barrier to women’s empowerment because their CFi committee will continue to choose women to be in the committee as leaders and also that they will try to provide training in nearby villages and communities about gender integration as well as women’s rights.

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Mrs. Khel Khem is another senior CFi committee member and a prominent member of the community who has and continues to work on behalf of the welfare of women in the community. As committee members, she feels that they (along with the other women representatives) are leaders and must support and demonstrate their capabilities for other women in the community.

Like Mr. Sous, she is also determined about continuing to promote gender awareness once the project with The Learning Institute phases out. She says that the committee members will continue to support women and other community-related projects because this will ensure that the community is protected and will also give the people a form of livelihood, no matter how small it may be because if not, we will fail when the project finishes.

As this four-year project comes to an end, the response from CFi community members and representatives about the recognition of women and integrating a gender perspective in the management of Community Fisheries is hopeful and positive.

Bak Amrek Doun-En is just one the examples where the inclusion and leadership of women has exemplified a change for the better and it is the hope of The Learning Institute that these communities will not only continue to transform but also serve as blueprints for other Community Fisheries to be more inclusive and challenge the gender barrier.

Interviews conducted for this story were translated from Khmer to English by Kong Phidor


Produced for The Learning Institute

A face of the next generation in the community, she leads by example.

Set in the  Bak Amrek-Doun En community, Battambang, One day in the life of Srey Mom, portrays the struggles of women in rural Cambodia, how hard they need to work for their livelihoods and how gender awareness and women’s empowerment campaigns are essential to help give them a voice and the opportunities they deserve.

Bak Amrek-Doun En is jost one of the communities that our “Community Fisheries Management and Livelihood Diversification Project”, funded by the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC), supports.

One of our project goals is to improve the recognition of the role of women and integrate a gender perspective in the development of rural/coastal livelihoods and in community fisheries management.

Srey Mom’s day begins before the crack of dawn. At 3:00AM, she begins cooking meals to sell at the community’s secondary school catering to both the children and staff. With the help of her younger brother, sister and brother-in-law, the meals are transported to the school in a bike cart.

By the time she reaches the school, it is 5:30AM. For the next hour, she will set up her shop and begin to heat the meals in time for her young customers. 

Srey Mom waits until 9:00AM before shutting the stall to head back home after which she concentrates on her work with the community. She is a member of the Community Fishery (CFi) committee working in the role of a cashier, works with the youth groups, is currently working on seeking funding for road repairs  and most prominently, has taken on the role as the chief facilitator for the women’s savings group.



Throughout this project, The Learning Institute has seen that the role of women in community fisheries is vital. Given the opportunity,  women have excelled in their roles by voicing out the real issues at hand as well as insights on how to solve the problems. The Kampong Samaki CFi (one of three Coastal sites under the project) in Kampot is a fine example of women who have taken on the responsibility and opportunity to work in the mangrove plantations and patrolling duties in the area to help save their natural resources. Joining in with these activities means that they are a part of or have a good chance of becoming a CFi committee member.

This leadership role not only gives them a sense of purpose within the community but also a means of exploring different ways to sustain themselves (livelihoods) rather than becoming dependent solely on fishing.

The Bak Amrek community is another example of a community filled with strong women leaders and that has been the one of the primary reasons why the gender awareness campaign has been a success in the community. To further help the women, The Learning Institute helped revive the community’s saving group.

The savings group provides financial help to women looking to increase their livelihoods, many of whom were willing to venture into small-scale businesses. The savings group provides a form of security; the women needn’t worry about high interest rates that would otherwise be charged by money lenders. This initiative has helped women, young and old, to rely on themselves and take a chance at supporting themselves and their families. 

The savings group is made up of 10 to 15 members with the facilitator, cashier and secretary making up the chief roles in the unit.


Each member of the group agrees to put in a sum of money without any restrictions (i.e., it can be as low as 500 riel or as high as 200,000+ riel). In regard to who can borrow the money, the members take turns dependent on the urgency at that certain point in time. The sum of money borrowed can either be the whole amount in the savings or a part of it. This borrowed sum is to be paid back within a six-month time frame with the interest rate set at 3%.

If, however, a member is not able to make the full payment within this six-month window, the interest rate is affixed at the 3% and the member doesn’t succumb to an increase or late fine. This is a unanimous decision made by the community. members as each one is aware of the other person’s situation. More notably, they trust each other to pay it back when they can.



As the chief, Srey Mom’s responsibilities include managing the documents and facilitating the group during meetings as well as having to explain the functions of the savings group if the members, new or old, have queries (such as interest rates).

She feels that the group is important and one of the points she raises several times is that because of the savings group, they don’t need to borrow money from businessmen or micro-finance institutions that demand high interest rates. The information provided during the savings group meetings have proven to be insightful as it is shared with the family of the members and in turn, the rest of the community both in terms of money management (how to save and what to save for) as well as decisions regarding loans; that the savings group provides a more secure means of a loan.

Srey Mom is keen for more of the community’s youth to join in the savings group. Because the youth members of the community face a more imminent threat with their livelihood, she feels that it will be beneficial for them in both the near future and the long run.





Srey Mom bridges the gap between the older members and the younger ones. Being able to communicate to both age groups is probably one of the main reasons why she has been so successful in her role as facilitator.

Srey Mom and the rest of the members of the savings group are hopeful about continuing the group even after the Community Fisheries Management and Livelihood Diversification project comes to an end in their community. She says  that trust is an important issue and points out  that the savings group is transparent and free of corruption.

Phal Tavy, 21, is someone who has found the saving group helpful and beneficial. Her livelihood has increased exponentially and aside from farming, her usual means of income, she also has enough financial support to buy and sell fish in the market. Because of her profits, her family’s living situation has also improved. She hopes that the savings group continues to build on this success and progresses for the future. 




The success of the savings group has been due to the experienced male and female members who make up the group and Mrs. Khel Khem, a Community Fishery (CFi) committee member, is one such leader.




Mrs. Khem has worked and continues to work with organizations and the welfare of women in her community has been one of her chief causes. She is an active committee member who is not only smart but also knowledgeable about the community and the needs of the people.

It is because of women like Mrs. Khem that Srey Mom is where she is today and undertaking the responsibilities that she has chosen to do not just for herself but for the community. 

Bak Amrek is a community fishery located an hour away from the city of Battambang. Situated along the Sangkae river, the community enjoys a peaceful setting and while fishing is their main occupation and source of income, farming is widely practiced and during the dry season, become wholly dependent on it. A small number of the population also rear livestock and run small businesses, mostly shops selling daily supplies and provisions along with farming goods and fish in the local market.

The women in the community are hardworking and effective and it isn’t uncommon to see women take on roles that would technically be seen as a “man’s job”. 


Nevertheless, even in such a setting, Srey Mom is not your archetypal woman in rural Cambodia. She is 30, unmarried and is placed with the responsibilities of being the wage earner for her family. When she isn’t lending a helping hand in the community, Srey Mom works is working in the rice fields and fisheries while also taking care of household chores and looking out for the family. Well aware of her responsibilities, her mother is proud of her and continues to be supportive of her daughter in her endeavors. 

Mrs. Khem and Srey Mom are excellent examples of women’s involvement in Community Fisheries. If more Bak Amrek-Doun En women follow in their footsteps they can help promote additional positive outcomes in their community and also lead as an example to the management of other Community Fisheries. 

Interviews conducted for this story were translated from Khmer to English by Kong Phidor


Produced for The Learning Institute, Originally published on the Learning Institute website on December 12, 2017.

In continuing with the series, the second part of Life On The Tonle Sap introduces you to people from the Peam Bang Commune who have chosen fishing (and other related activities) over customary livelihoods to sustain themselves.




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15 year old Samnang is happy to help his mother sell food in their floating stall when he is not busy with his school work. He and his mother usually work a 12-hour shift beginning from 6:00AM till 6:00PM.

Their most popular selling item on the menu is Boklahung (a kind of salad with papaya and vegetables). Samnang's father also has a stall but he sells it from their boat house.

They earn around 70,000 to 80,000 riel per day, half of which goes in buying groceries and ingredients. 



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Chhun Sao is the only mechanic in Peam Bang and most of his time is spent fixing the fishing boats in the community.

He is assisted by his son and he hopes that others in the community would show interest in his profession too as it is profitable for them, financially and also practically.  

Although he is not short of customers, Chhun Sao has already made his decision to move permanently from Peam Bang to Stung district where he will carry on with his profession.

He is currently waiting for the government's approval on land that has been provided to him.

Recorded interviews with Samnang and Chhun Sao were translated from Khmer to English by Kong Phidor and Otdam Hor from The Learning Institute


Produced for The Learning Institute. Originally published in the Learning Institute website on November 20, 2017

Supported by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), the Learning Institute is currently implementing a project in two Community Fisheries located in the Tonle Sap region: Peam Bang Senchey and Doun Sdueng Senchey, located in Peam Bang Commune, Stung District, Kampong Thom Province. Peam Bang is a floating commune located in the Tonle Sap area, the largest freshwater lake in Cambodia, where fishing is the main source of income for the people. But the biosphere here is rapidly changing, leaving many individuals and families in a dilemma. Fishing has been always been a way of life for as long as those living in the community can remember and for most of them, it is the only thing they know how to do. 

Through our Sustainable Fisheries Conservation Management Through Collaborative Approach Project, we have been working hand in hand with the communities to create conservation zones within the lake, combat illegal fishing activities and encourage alternative means of livelihood. Many of the communities around the Tonle Sap are reliant on fishing and remain determined to continue to do so while others have made the choice to migrate to land to seek other ways of making a living. 


Doung Steng Commune

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Mean Chuern's story is an unfortunate truth that echoes life on the Tonle Sap. Fishing is the main source of livelihood in the floating communities around the lake and for most, it is the only trade they have ever known. However, with environmental changes taking place, the number of fish within this biosphere has been greatly depleted resulting in many families, like Mean Chuern's, left struggling and without alternatives means of earning a livelihood.

There are changes taking place in the Tonle Sap and Chuern can feel them. Four to five years ago, he could catch 50-70 kilograms of fish per day but today, even a mere five kilograms is hard to come by. There is an unmistakable decrease in the number of fish but he has also noticed that the water seems to have changed. It has become sour and salty and the fish often turn up dead. The possible causes? Pollution and using illegal methods of fishing such as explosives and poison.

Borrowing money through middle men or lenders has become a common practice in these floating villages. With the decrease of fish catch, it has become more difficult to pay back the loans on time. Lenders though, are aware of the plight within their community, making them sympathetic towards those in dire need. Chuern says that no matter how long it may take, both the lender and the borrower know that the debt will be paid off eventually.

The community doesn’t borrow money from the lender, though. The lender provides them with the materials or items they require. Chuern and his family for example, have been borrowing necessities like gas, fishing nets and/or worms. The payback is then made in cash.  While it is never easy to repay the amount owed, the dry season (when there are less fish) is especially difficult. Chuern himself confessed to having taken up to six months to repay a lender.

Nevertheless, the lenders continue to lend because it is ultimately a good business for them.

On the upside, there have been no incidents of backlash and/or violence from the part of the lenders when people have not been able to repay their debt. Chuern said that he still has several debts, recent and from previous years, left to pay off.

Chuern's wife also mentioned another form of payment: payback in the form of fish. She recently needed more fishing nets and while she is yet to pay off the debt, the amount will be paid off when she catches fish that equals the amount borrowed (cost of the net, gas, etc. as valued by the lender). As to how she keeps a track of this, "I note them down in a book. When I have caught the amount of fish that is owed, I strike down the item that I have borrowed for such items as gas and worms".

This year was a particularly bad season for the fishermen in the community. "Everyone cried" Chuern said. This has led to seasonal migration among the villagers during fishing season to areas where they think there will be more fish. But with the situation almost similar in all the communities around the lake, all they can do is compete and hope.

Chuern and his wife don't go fishing as often as they used to. It is mostly their son who fishes these days, catching between four to ten kilograms. The common varieties of fish in the area are the Chhlat, Andeng, Rosh and Kranh. The Chhlat fish is worth 1,000 riel per kilogram and there are days when they catch just five kilograms of this kind. With having to repay their lenders as well as the family expenses to consider, they are ultimately left with little to no money by the end of the day.

As a means of sustenance, the family is also trying to rear their own fish (fish farming) although this has proven to be equally expensive. It takes six to seven months for the fish to grow depending on the forage being fed. Taking care of them (i.e. buying the forage) costs money and when money is tight even for their day-to-day expenses, their only option is to go back to the lenders. So while they may be able to grow and sell the fish, in the end there is no profit for them.

This grim economic cycle in the Tonle Sap is further exacerbated by the pricing of the fish in the local markets. Constantly fluctuating, the prices are seemingly dictated by the buyers (it's important to highlight that these 'buyers' are mostly made up of the money lenders and the middlemen in the communities). Chuern heard once from a buyer that the price fluctuates in other markets too, indicating that this is a wide-spread problem. A solution that can perhaps increase the price of the fish is exporting them to the neighboring countries. But as of now, the fish in the region are all processed and sold within Cambodia.

While illegal fishing has always been a problem in the Tonle Sap, the low yield has made it more apparent. This has led to Community Fishery (CFi) members creating an awareness campaign in their village. Chuern and his wife said that they do not resort to using any illegal equipment for fishing but this hasn't stopped many families who are in similar situations to do so. Considering the future, protecting the biosphere and the natural habitat seems unimportant to them when the reality is not having enough money to feed themselves for the day.

If the recent trends in the Tonle Sap are anything to go by, there is a fear that this biosphere will soon disappear bringing an end to the floating communities once and for all. If this were to happen, Chuern is unsure about the future and his family. He had heard about a government plan to provide land for the people but he can't be sure if these are just rumors or the truth. "I don't know how to make a living anymore" said Chuern, who has known fishing as his only means of livelihood.


Peam Bang Commune

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Mott has taken steps to find other means of livelihood other than just fishing to support her family because although the family is still very much reliant on fishing as their main source of income, they are experiencing the reality of the situation and know that fishing cannot be the only thing they are dependent upon. 

Mott took on this work not out of passion or choice but for the sheer need to sustain the family. She is determined to continue the job if she gets more customers in days to come.  We spoke to her in her boathouse while she was repairing her first fishing net.

It had only been three days since Mott had commenced the task of fixing fishing nets in the community when we paid her a visit. Prior to this, she would accompany her husband and son for fishing and placing nets in the lake. But just as it was with everyone we had spoken to in the community, the catch was just not enough to earn a living. 

Mott says that it has become harder to find places to fish or more specifically, it has become difficult to find (and catch enough) fish. What they do catch is just enough for their own consumption but not enough to sell to the middleman.

The reason for this is simple: over-fishing. The fish are too few to sustainably renew the population. The tipping point has been reached. There are also other ecological reasons contributing to the decrease such as up-stream dams and pollution but none compare with the mass over-fishing that takes place.

These days, Mott usually stays home and attends to the household chores while her husband takes responsibility for fishing - placing the nets to catch the fish and later, to sell the catch. He is occasionally accompanied to the market by their son. Also, Mott has started to fix fishing nets as an alternative means of livelihood.

She charges 20, 000 riel per day and the number of hours or days is dependent on the size of the net: "It depends on Sach bo (the net). If the tear and damage is large, it will take longer to fix it". Mot doesn't enjoy fixing the nets "but I must do it because I have no money"

If she had a choice and had enough money to invest in something, her first choice would still be a fishing-related occupation.  However perhaps rearing pigs would be a viable option too, she said. But this would require her to invest 3,000,000 riel; money that she doesn't have.

Mott may have started a little sideline business to help sustain herself and her family but she says that if the family cannot earn enough through their own endeavors borrowing from people such as the money lenders in the community is the last choice she has. Borrowing money has become the fall back plan and a means of survival on the Tonle Sap. "I will borrow from others if our family cannot earn and we will pay back when we have money" she says.

As part of our CEPF-funded, Sustainable Fisheries Conservation Management Through Collaborative Approach Project, gender equity has been a striking feature of the activities within the program and since the start, the organization has been looking for ways to engage and include the women in the Peam Bang Commune so that they can have a stronger voice in decision-making, join the community fishery (CFi) committee and volunteer for activities such as patrolling or recording and monitoring the fish stock data.

We proposed the idea of a savings group to Mott as this could allow her to invest for the pig rearing idea that she had mentioned. She told us that she had joined a previous savings group but that had failed due to a lack of leadership and guidance. If we (The Learning Institute) are looking to get involved and form a new one in the community though, Mott says she will join. Mot thinks that if the organization can appointment someone responsible and trustworthy in the community to lead the group and come once a month to oversee the management of the money, the women's saving group in the community will be a success.

There are several women like Mott in these communities who are trying, to the best of their capabilities, to help their family financially while also multitasking with household chores or childcare. Although the men are the wage earners and decision-makers in both the family and the community, it should not be mistaken for inequity as the women are the ones in charge of the all financial aspect.

Women make up half the population in any community and their voices must be heard. The aim of these activities are to impart the understanding, to both men and women, young and old, that women play an important role in any community and it is vital for them to feel a sense of self-worth and the need to be able to contribute to the society and the community that they live in. 

With gender equity being a key value to The Learning Institute, we are examining and studying various ways in which we can educate the rural communities about the importance of gender equity and supporting women activities. Forming the women's savings group could help the women of Peam Bang find other areas of earning income.

The Learning Institute remains fully committed to supporting women to take a more active role in effectively managing the fishery areas, including the Conservation Areas, resulting in increased productivity and biodiversity of fisheries resources and thus, sustainable livelihoods for all.


Recorded interviews with Mean Chuern and Mott were translation from Khmer to English by Kong Phidor and Otdam Hor from The Learning Institute


Produced for The Learning Institute. Originally published in the Learning Institute website on August 29, 2017

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In 2008, The Learning Institute (then known as CBNRM Learning Institute) issued a study entitled The Roles, Needs and Aspirations of Women in Community Fisheries in Cambodia, using six Community Fisheries (CFi’s) from the Tonle Sap Lake, Mekong River and Coastal regions for the case study. 

The study confirmed the general observations that women’s main role and responsibilities lie in household work and caring for their children while men are in charge of generating an income for the family. But it is worth pointing out that there were shifts in these traditional gender division roles as women were increasingly engaging in activities that contribute towards generating income for the family.

One of the ongoing projects at The Learning Institute, funded by Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC), is Strengthening Community Fisheries Management and Livelihood Diversification in Cambodia. It is currently being implemented in the Battambang, Kampong Chhnang, Kampot, Kep, Pursat and Sihanouk provinces and a significant purpose of the project is to improve the recognition of the role of women in order to integrate a gender perspective. 

The activities within the project includes public campaigning and awareness within the community, holding public forums, meetings with the commune and the Fisheries Administration personnel and also restoration of the conservation zone by patrolling and planting mangroves. 

Community Fisheries (CFi's) were introduced in Cambodia in the late 1990s to improve the management of local fisheries and also to ensure local food security [1]. The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Cambodia (MAFF) 2015/2016 annual report states that there are 561 CFi’s (of which 377 are licensed and recognized by the MAFF) currently functioning in Cambodia, yet they all continue to face similar challenges such as illegal and destructive fishing and fishing methods. 

These Community Fisheries were envisaged as a “community to harvest fish” and not as a cooperative of fish producers. The distinction is important” it was as an institution in which all members of the community – adult men and women and young people – could participate, but the primary focus of the activity was intended to be on the harvesting of fish from the fishery domains created in accordance with the area agreement.

Kurien, J. (2017). Community Fisheries Organizations of Cambodia: Sharing processes, results and lessons learned in the context of the implementation of the SSF guidelines. 58.

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The Kampong Samaki CFi in the Kampot province is one of the seven communities whom The Learning Institute is working with. Although set up in 2006, it wasn’t until 2011 that they were officially registered as a CFi. The Kampong Samaki CFi was created through the collaborative efforts of Kompong Thnot and Kompong Noun villages and it covers 578 hectares of which 528 hectares is a fishing area while the other 50 hectares is a conservation zone. 

There was also a hope that the creation of this CFi would protect the mangrove forests. The hope was that protecting the mangrove forest would create a renewed fishing habitat hence preserving the declining natural resources. About 65% of the Kampong Samaki CFi residents earn their income by fishing while the rest depend on other forms of livelihood like rice farming, crab and shrimp fishing as well as selling fuel and fishing material.  

The Kampong Samaki CFi was established in 2006. Before the establishment of the CFi, private investors had sought access to mangrove and coastal areas for shrimp farming and salt pans. NGO’s and other agencies supported the development of the CFi to protect the mangrove forest and coastal areas from privatization.

Penisten J. (2012). Hawaii, The Big Island. 23

The importance and subject of the role of women in fishing communities and fisheries management is not documented enough but it has been accepted that women are equally involved in every aspect of fisheries-related activities. 

Through The Roles, Needs And Aspirations Of Women In Community Fisheries In Cambodia, the study observed an increasing involvement of women in CFi activities, particularly in savings groups and information dissemination.

Women are visible and prominent in the establishing and managing a saving group because of the traditional norm that financial management is a woman’s responsibility in the household. While this may still be true, it seems that the women in the CFi’s have found other activities to involve themselves in.

Heoun Sarin (51), Khuy Mom (52) and Soun Sokha (41) are three of the many women from the Kampong Samaki CFi who are actively involved in the CFi activities.

While Sarin, Mom and Sokha are all CFi members, Sokha also holds the role of finance and administration. She has worked with the community since its establishment (in 2006) as a member and was voted in as a committee member in 2013.

Sokha has been involved in community activities to help build bridges, community buildings and planting mangroves as well as collecting mangrove seeds.

I do it so that the next generation can see the beautiful natural resources and the community improvements. I do it for them because they can see us in them when we’re no longer there in the future. I do it because my mother used to do the same for me.”.  

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As mothers, the three of them have a collective fear for their children as they do not want them to endure the same hardships as they do. With five children, of which her older two daughters work in a factory in Phnom Penh, Sarin has three younger sons who are still in school and says “I am afraid because I am poor so I do not have ability to support them. What my husband and I can do is to try to work hard for the family. I really want to see them live a better life”.  

Sarin joined as a CFi member five years ago and is very grateful to the community for not only accepting her but also for giving her a home. “I love them and want to help the community” she says earnestly. Originally from Takeo province, Sarin moved to Kampot in 1993, initially living with her sister in law. Her family then moved to work in the salt pans while living in a nearby hut. But working in the salt pans wasn’t a full-time job and life was beginning to get difficult but fortunately for her, the community recognized their struggles and in the pursuit of finding people to take care of the mangrove farms, Sarin and her family were assisted by the community and given housing as well. Besides this, she also sells sea food in the market.  Another collective concern that the three women have is for the sustainability and the development of their community. It was the many cases of land grabbing along he sea that made 52-year-old Mom join the community activities.

“Land grabbing” refers to large-scale land acquisitions, mainly by private investors but also by public investors and agribusiness that buy farmland or lease it on a longer-term basis to produce agricultural commodities. These international investors, as well as the public, semi public or private sellers, often operate in legal grey areas and in a no man’s land between traditional land rights and modern forms of property. In many cases of land grabbing, one could speak of a land reform from above or of the establishment of new colonial relations imposed by the private sector [2].

In the case of the residents of Kampong Nesad Samaki in 2008, it was 72 hectares of mangrove forests said to have been illegally deeded to four local officials. The then Provincial Governor of Kampot, Thach Korn, said the land was being returned to the villagers’ care “as state land” [3].

The mangroves are essential for the benefit of the community, the environment and for marine life and Sarin, Mom and Sokha are all involved in the preservation and conservation of the mangroves by volunteering to help and plant the mangroves (an activity that has been implemented by The Learning Institute for the project). Sarin hopes that their village too will become an ecotourism community like their neighboring CFi (Trapang Sanke eco tourist community). But for changes to take place, there needs to be a cooperative and collaborative effort for which the women seem to be playing a big role these days.

The community chief and other community members always invite us to join when they have any activities. They also mobilize community members to work together. I am interested in these activities and volunteer to do it by myself” said Mom, who along with Sarin, is also part of the patrolling duty that keeps an eye out for illegal fishing activities, another major problem faced by fishing communities. Sarin observes that while both men and women participate similarly, it’s mostly men who are the leaders. “However, when women raise their ideas, men pay attention too” she adds. 

 Sokha has a different approach to gender. It wasn’t just about women working within her community but about girls and women in general. For her, it’s not so much inequality but about security and a cultural mindset.


Gender issues (in Cambodia) is being promoted much more and this is leading to more improvements. Nowadays, women can go to school, work and do anything that men do. The challenge is security. It’s not secure enough for girls or women to go out alone”. While talking about the activities in her community, she believes that there should be a continued effort to motivate women to not only raise ideas but participate more during meetings too. 

John Kurien’s 2017 research Community Fisheries Organization of Cambodia shows that the gender and age profile of the Community Fisheries membership were more or less the same across the three regions of his study (Tonle Sap, Mekong and Marine). However, Kurien also adds that the role of the women in the community was singled out by Focus Group Discussions (FGD) for the crucial role they play.

It was only once they (women) formally joined the CFi that their status as “fishers” were recognized thus providing them with a strong voice in CFi decisions. Thereafter, the role of women as a key factor in both conservation efforts and in the negotiating and educating of illegal fishers, was highlighted. 

So, for the success of Community Fisheries in Cambodia, the role of the women cannot be disregarded.  





1. Phone interview with Heoun Sarin, Khuy Mom and Soun Sokha translated from English to Khmer by Ork Sereirath, Kong Phidor and Khun Chanthorn from The Learning Institute.

2. Channyda, C. (2008, June 13). Kampot Returns Mangrove Land To Villagers. Cambodia Daily. Retrieved from: archives/kampot-returns-mangrove-land-to-villagers-58106/&num=1&client=safari&hl=en&strip=1&vwsrc=0  

3. Global Agriculture. Retrieved from:

4. Kunthear, M. and Chamroeun, C. (2008, July 11). Cautious Kampot Villagers Await Return Of Mangroves. The Phnom Penh Post. Retrieved from: 

5. Kurien, J. (2017). Community Fisheries Organizations of Cambodia: Sharing Processes, Results And Lessons Learned In The Context Of The Implementation Of The SSF Guidelines. 58. Retrieved from:

6. Learning Institute neé CBNRM Learning Institute (2008). The Roles, Needs and Aspirations Of Women In Community Fisheries In Cambodia.

7. Open Development (2015, September 07). Community Fisheries. Retrieved from: https:// 

8. Penisten J. (2012). Hawaii, The Big Island. 23Retrieved from: vbwKHUrNB80Q6AEIJjAA#v=onepage&q&f=false