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Kheng Rida calls on women to join conservation effort
PHNOM PENH--Kheng Rida grew up with nature amid the biodiversity of Mondulkiri province. Now, six years after starting work as the province’s only forest ranger, she is encouraging other women to take up the profession.
“I want more women to participate in environmental work,” she said. “There is still some discrimination against women but the job does not always require much physical strength.”
Rida, 26, said her job at Sre Pok Wildlife Sanctuary has been arduous as it involves working to prevent deforestation and poaching.
She often encountered danger while guarding the forest or chasing perpetrators but this had never lessened her love for the forest and wildlife in her hometown, Senmonorom city. She remained committed to protecting and participating in any activity that can replenish the environment.
She graduated with a degree in Forestry Science at Prek Leap National College of Agriculture in Phnom Penh in 2018 and has been using her knowledge and understanding from her studies with a growing passion to help restore and protect natural resources.
“Mondulkiri province is my birthplace and there used to be enough water resources as well as adequate animals and forest in the past,” she said.
“There was even a lot of vegetables and fruit. But now, we import crops and items from other countries. And there’s climate change. The water resources are depleting, and the loss of forest is happening,” Rida said.
“Therefore, I can help protect the forest and wildlife as well as participate in activities that can restore the environment.”
Another challenge was that some people look down on her work but this did not dismay her because she was encouraged and supported by her family and her team.
Rida said she wants to see more women contributing to environmental conservation, explaining that being an environmental protection officer is dignified work with an appropriate salary.
She called for an end to discrimination in the field of conservation and said the determination and commitment of the people working in the field mattered more than their gender.
“If women are not physically strong, they still can contribute in terms of good ideas,” she said, pointing out that cooperation and participation of everyone is needed to successfully complete a task.
Cambodia has seen environmental destruction such as deforestation and poaching over the past years. However, its forest and natural resource protection efforts are lacking.
Ministry of Environment spokesperson Neth Pheaktra said there are about 1, 200 rangers deployed to protect forests.
“I can say that, now, we don’t have enough forest rangers yet,” Pheaktra said.
“Given the size of our forests, one ranger is responsible for around 10,000 hectares of forests whereas, based on the standards, one ranger is meant to take care of just 2,000 hectares.”