They developed a shared vision for the future of Cambodia – ‘one free from environmental degradation and poverty’ as they found that in Cambodia few rural people survive entirely on what they produce from their own land. They supplement their livelihoods by hunting, fishing or gathering forest products. But overfishing and deforestation are threatening both this way of living and ecosystems. The Mekong River Dolphin and many other critically endangered species are on the verge of extinction due to destructive natural resource usage.
Our founding members come from rural backgrounds so it’s no stretch of the imagination to learn that they care about rural communities. They experienced poverty first hand in their youth, and saw how closely linked poverty is to natural resources. If livelihoods are tied to environmental issues, a population exploding after years of atrocities means more people sharing Cambodia’s natural bounty. This free-for-all of natural resource exploitation cannot last.
Founded in 2001 as a voluntary university-student initiative, called at that time the Cambodian Volunteer Rural Development Team (CVRDT), the strong motivation, deep technical expertise and hard work of the team resulted in the rapid growth of the organization. Through securing partnerships with large international organizations, CRDT changed from implementing one-off projects, to sustained integrated programs covering a variety of livelihood, natural resource management, and community development components. These aim to raise living standards and contribute to environmental conservation.
Since 2004, CRDT have delivered community and rural development to over 6,000 families in support of conservation of critically endangered Mekong River Irrawaddy Dolphins in Kratie and Stung Treng, and the protection of tropical forest biodiversity in Mondulkiri. CRDT was officially registered with the Ministry of Interior as a local NGO in 2005 and the original founding members of the organization are still involved in its management and governance.
CRDT has deep technical expertise and extensive experience in environmentally appropriate agricultural development, increasing food security, supporting market linkages and income generation, natural resource management, non-timber forest products, water and sanitation, renewable energy technologies, eco-tourism and community empowerment. Currently the organization has around 40 staff members living close to and working with the local communities in three of Cambodia’s North Eastern provinces. All project communities are selected in conjunction with conservation partners WWF and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) to be areas of particular interest for conservation where biodiversity is threatened by livelihood activities and exploitation of natural resources.