Belong­ing to the first edu­cated gen­er­a­tion after the Khmer Rouge period, the 5 founders of the Cam­bod­ian Rural Devel­op­ment Team (CRDT) were dis­ad­vant­aged rural children. Access to edu­ca­tion was an uphill struggle. Hard work and extraordin­ary cir­cum­stances saw our founders meet­ing at uni­ver­sity, and being in the minor­ity com­ing from under­priv­ileged back­grounds, they ban­ded together as a team.

CRDT Founders during their university time in 2001-2002
CRDT Founders during their university time in 2001-2002

A Shared Vision

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.

CRDT Founders in the early days of CRDT during their field work during Khmer-Laos border in Stung Treng in 2006

From Voluntary Student Initiative to Non-Government Organisation

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.

Closure of CRDT’s Second project in Takeo province in June 2004, presided over by the Australian Ambassador Lisa Filipetto.

Local Impact, Global Support

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.

Close project party with villagers in Stung Treng province
Close project party with villagers in Stung Treng province
During field work in 2004 (1)
During field work in 2004

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